By Steve Hubrecht
Invermere accessibility advocate Tanelle Bolt is pressing ahead with efforts to improve accessibility at Kinsmen Beach and to set up an adaptive outdoor gear rental shop as soon as possible. As part of that, she is seeking input and support from Invermere residents.
Bolt is a founder of the nonprofit Recreation Adapted (RAD) Society, which strives to make outdoor recreation possible for people with limited mobility. In 2022 she asked Invermere council to improve access at Kinsmen Beach for those with mobility challenges, and this past winter she presented her ideas about renovating a 40-foot shipping container and turning it into an accessible, adaptive gear rental hub. She called the planned hub ‘the Gear Box’ and suggested that James Chabot Provincial Park would be a good spot for it.
An email from the District of Invermere to Bolt indicated there are many steps, such as public consultation and environmental assessments that must take place before either proposal can go ahead, but in the meantime Bolt is looking for community engagement on her plans, especially on improving Kinsmen Beach.
“We’d like to have a conversation. We want to hear what you, Invermere resident, on what you would like to see, whether you’re a person who uses a wheelchair, a grandma who wants to be able to get a kayak in and out of the water with her small grandkids, or really anybody wishing it was easier to get in and out of the lake at Kinsmen Beach,” said Bolt.
She is hoping that, eventually, what she calls a ‘human boat launch’, which would essentially be a barrier-free paved pathway, will connect the Kinsmen Beach parking lot to the shore, allowing users to much more easily get into the water (or to the Whiteway in winter).
Bolt shared a recent email to RAD from Invermere Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Young, which outlines some of the challenges involved in creating the ‘human boat launch.’ Public consultation needs to happen first, wrote Young, and an environmental evaluation conducted. Once that is done, the district would need to apply for and receive permits from both Fisheries & Oceans Canada and the provincial Ministry of Environment.
“The anticipated timeline to secure those permits from time of application to issuance is 18 months, minimum,” wrote Young, later adding “please be advised the District of Invermere has not budgeted to do any of this work in 2023. We believe that the work elements described above will be quite costly and risky since there is a strong likelihood that the senior government agencies may not issue the required permits.”
Bolt pointed to other recent municipal accessibility infrastructure projects in B.C., such as the wheelchair-accessible Ray Kandola Heritage Pier in Peachland, which three years ago won a BC Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) Parks Excellence Award.
These examples show that municipal governments can in fact make their waterfront accessible to those with mobility challenges, she said.
RAD already has $10,000 in grants or other funding for the Gear Box and has already secured a container. “But the container is not yet renovated. We need to sort out a location first, then we can focus on fixing up the container and connecting it to the surrounding infrastructure,” said Bolt.
Young also addressed the issue of the location of the Gear Box in the email to RAD. He outlined that the District of Invermere does not own or control James Chabot Provincial Park, although it is working on an agreement with the provincial government to jointly manage the park along with the Shuswap Band. But that agreement is not in place yet, so the district doesn’t have the authority to allow the Gear Box at James Chabot.
“We are of the opinion that the proposed installation would not fit into Kinsmen Beach Park or even the parking lot,” wrote Young, adding that “we are also of the opinion that the proposed installation would not fit into the recently approved plans for the future development of (the Lake Windermere Resort lands).”
Young proposed two alternative sites: near the concrete wall of the Lakeview parking lot close to the accessible public washrooms, and near the western edge of the Pynelogs Rotary Ball Park parking lot.
“This location (by the Pynelogs Rotary Ball Park parking lot) provides good access to electrical hookups too. This site can be easily reached by vehicles, and is in a highly visible location which makes it easier to monitor and protect,” wrote Young.
Bolt feels there could be space at the Kinsmen parking lot beside the accessible parking space near the splash park.
She noted there are many hurdles standing in the way of creating a ‘human boat launch’ and getting the Gear Box set up, but is undeterred. “I’m optimistic,” she said.
Anyone wanting to find out more can contact RAD at info@RADSociety.ca.