BC Forest Discovery Centre gets a lift

“We loaded up 17 wheelchairs in 15 minutes today.”

Now the entire family can easily enjoy riding the train and the other sights at the BC Forest Discovery Centre as wheelchair/handicapped access is improved at the popular tourist destination.

Staff and volunteers from the Centre celebrated last Thursday and Friday with a pair of well-attended Accessibility Days.

“People have really appreciated it and it’s gone over so well today,” said a happy Chris Gale, manager of the BC Forest Discovery Centre, at the end of the first day of celebration.

A lot of people who want to visit the Forest Discovery Centre are of an age where they or their partners may be dealing with mobility issues and Gale agreed that has been a driver behind the push to increase accessibility at the site.

“When we first talked about the idea we weren’t sure how it was going to go over. But once we started contacting the care homes and seniors homes they all got excited. And what a response to this: over 180 people today and probably another 120 tomorrow,” he said.

It’s so easy for a casual observer to see, when a busload comes in from a care home, how much they love coming to the Forest Centre and, especially, riding the train.

“They can get fresh air, see history and they don’t need to leave town to get to something like this,” Gale said.

“They can come to ride their own train in their own town,” Gale said, adding that the grateful response to the new accessibility was touching.

“I almost had a tear in my eye a couple of times today,” he said.

Previously, staff and volunteers were needed to lift and guide people in wheelchairs actually up and onto the train by use a sturdy but steeply sloping metal ramp.

Gale remembered his first sight of it.

“It was my first day here on the job, 16 months ago, and I said then: ‘We’ve got to fix that’ and everybody agreed so we got to work on it. And now we have this, and, when we get the washrooms done and everything else finished, it will be so much better.”

Some of the boardwalks have already been improved, the parking lot has been totally reworked and the whole front of the building will be changed.

“We wanted to have that done this week but we couldn’t quite manage it. That’s all going to be torn off and nice sliding doors installed so it will be completely open. The washrooms will be done before next season,” he said.

A particularly special aspect of the new hydraulic lift on the train is how quickly it works, according to Gale.

“We loaded up 17 wheelchairs in 15 minutes today. Admittedly, that’s not going to happen very often but it shows that it’s not a slow lift,” he said, adding that sometimes, previously, visitors in wheelchairs might have been concerned that they were holding people up because everyone had to wait while the ramp was put up, before a wheelchair could be pushed onto the train car.

Now, parents and grandparents in wheelchairs can easily come with their families to such popular annual events as the Halloween Train and the Christmas Express.

“Yes, we’re very, very happy,” Gale said.

The celebration last week also featured special admission prices for anyone with mobility issues and day-long breakfast buffets, organized by the tireless Bill Dumont. “He’s been in charge of all the food and what a job he’s done. Fantastic,” Gale said.

The BC Forest Discovery Centre is now closed until Oct. 23 when it opens for the Halloween Train.

Just Posted

Cowichan Citizen and Lake Cowichan Gazette announce new publisher

David van Deventer has been with Black Press Media since 2014

Island Health is bringing a vaccination clinic to Lake Cowichan starting June 23. (Submitted)
COVID vaccine clinic coming to Lake Cowichan as area numbers lag

Clinic will operate at arena starting June 23

The Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society, which has been operating a treatment centre on land leased from the Nanoose First Nation for 35 years (pictured), has begun a fundraising campaign to open a new centre near Duncan. (Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society photo)
New Indigenous treatment centre to be built near Duncan

Centre will help survivors of residential schools

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Saltair man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.’s Indigenous language, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read