After the North Shore Advisory Committee on Disability Issues provided feedback to the District of West Vancouver, the District of North Vancouver, and the City of North Vancouver regarding the desire for accessible park land that provides a wilderness experience, the District of West Vancouver looked to their own parks to see what they could do.
Armed with the knowledge that approximately 25 percent of the district’s population are over the age of 65, and a Parks User Survey from 2017 estimating that 17 percent of respondents indicated a personal mobility issue that prevented use of park space, the District of West Vancouver identified the Juniper Loop Trail in the popular Lighthouse Park as an opportunity to remove barriers to access.
“Lighthouse Park is such a unique old-growth forest in an urban setting. It is accessible to get to the start, with the transit system for example, but once you get here it’s incredibly steep and hilly and doesn’t allow for everyone to enjoy the experience,” Daphne Hales, director at the Lighthouse Park Preservation Society, an entirely volunteer-run organization, said of the need for an accessible trail.
“We wanted to provide an experience to every visitor to the park.”
After applying for funding from the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) BC Accessibility Grants program, the District of West Vancouver was able to execute upgrades to one of the trails – The Birdsong Path on the existing Juniper Loop. The Lighthouse Park Preservation Society also applied for funding from the Province of British Columbia to help them improve the trail.
335 meters of the trail was resurfaced and partially regraded, and included a rest area for visitors. Finally, the map on the park kiosk was upgraded for visibility and highlights the accessible trailhead. With the grant money, the district also underwent parking upgrades including relocating the designated accessible parking area to be next to the Juniper Loop trailhead, upgrading it to asphalt from gravel, and creating a level, firm and slip-resistant surface, allowing for movement in front of and behind vehicles and access to the trail. Finally, the map on the park kiosk was upgraded for visibility and highlights the accessible trailhead.
“The trail immediately gets individuals into the depths of the forest which is an experience you can’t find often,” Hales said.
On June 18th, 2022, Lighthouse Park Preservation Society hosted an event to celebrate the accessible trail. Hales said that attendees were very excited about the concept and the initial work done on the trail.
“We’ve encountered people on the trail with mobility aids, moms with push prams for their babies, people with walking sticks, and they’ve all said the trail is wonderful,” Hales said of the feedback on the trail so far.
During the celebration, Hales led a guided walk of the trail, and one individual noted that she is excited to bring her father who uses a wheelchair.
Since the completion of these upgrades, the Lighthouse Park Preservation Society has been able to secure a grant from the West Vancouver Foundation. Funding from this grant will help extend the trail and install picnic tables and benches to create an experience for all visitors.
“Improved accessibility means that I can visit the Juniper Loop trail at Lighthouse Park with family, friends and District of West Vancouver staff who could not have used the trail prior to its upgrades,” Karen Marzocco, Access Services Program Coordinator at the District of North Vancouver said. “The upgraded portion of the trail now provides accessible, easy access to nature including large trees and the sights, sounds, and smells of the rainforest for all trail users of all ages and abilities."
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support for the BC Accessibility Grant Program from the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction.