Build bridges, build community: City’s rural grant supports Nature For All

The design for Baxter's new accessible bridge The design for Baxter's new accessible bridge

MANOTICK, June 3, 2022 – Baxter Conservation Area will build more than just a bridge this summer: it will build a more inclusive and accessible community, as well. 

The Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation is one step closer to making that dream a reality, thanks to a $50,000 grant awarded by the City of Ottawa under the Rural Community-Building Grant Program. This grant will help the Foundation’s Nature For All committee transform Baxter’s 80-hectare natural park near Kars into Eastern Ontario’s most accessible nature destination. 

But this project is about more than a new bridge, said Nature For All committee chair Mike Nemesvary.

“At its core, this project is about creating an inclusive society,” said Nemesvary. The long-time disability advocate has been visiting Baxter in his power wheelchair for nearly 20 years, after a training accident left him paralyzed on his path to becoming a world champion freestyle skier. “Nature should be for everybody. People all ages and abilities should be able to enjoy the many physical and emotional benefits of being outside without worrying about safety or logistics.”

The project’s first phase, slated to begin construction later this year, includes a new marshland bridge designed to the gold standard of accessibility based on the world’s top outdoor accessibility policies. This bridge will be twice as wide as the current decommissioned structure, with two large, accessible education platforms to accommodate more inclusive outdoor education programming, accessible railings and sightlines and gradual slopes. 

Baxter’s Nature For All vision also includes five kilometres of extra-wide boardwalk and stone dust trails designed with gold-standard accessibility features like gentle slopes and bounce control.

Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt said this project is precisely the type the city’s rural grants are designed to support. 

“Baxter Conservation Area is a beloved local spot, but this grant will help transform it into a true destination for all city residents, of all ages and abilities,” Moffatt said. “As our city’s population gets older, and as we welcome and celebrate the diversity of our communities, inclusive projects like this one are incredibly valuable.”

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