Increasing accessibility in St.Vital
In December I was joined with Mayor Bowman and local MLA Rochelle Squires to open the new toboggan slide complex at St. Vital Park. The toboggan slides were a difficult and long-running project that took almost four years from announcement to opening. One of the factors that caused a delay was the addition of a wheelchair ramp to make the slides fully accessible. I can’t say it was my idea – but what a great idea it turned out to be! Not only is the ramp a game changer for disabled users (to use the term of Paralympic Billy Bridges, who took the ceremonial first slide along with his daughter), it is an aesthetic marvel that makes the toboggan project a real architectural triumph. It’s the kind of design that no one would have considered when I was growing up in St. Vital – but which we now accept as part of a modern, inclusive Winnipeg.
It made me think of some other projects that have expanded accessibility during my term as Councillor. Most notably, the renovated St. Vital Outdoor Pool is now fully accessible, both the change rooms and “beach entry” into the pool. Additionally, the St. Vital Library renovation (also a difficult and long-running project) includes an elevator to connect all three floors for the first time. This elevator opened in early 2016 before the rest of the renovation took place. It was partly funded by the province, one of MANY projects I worked on with former MLA Nancy Allan. The driving force behind that elevator however was former Windsor Community Centre Manager Jackie Hanna. I was very proud to share her story when the elevator actually opened.
There have been other initiatives on a smaller scale – the Windsor Community Centre added an elevator during its renovations with help of a $50,000 grant from the City, the play structure at Wyatt school got funding from all three levels of government to make it more accessible a few years ago, the new three-season washroom near the play structure at St. Vital Park is accessible.
There is always more work to do, such as expanding Handi-Transit into the south of the Perimeter area of St.Vital. I am proud of the progress over the past six years – and I encourage everyone to try out the new toboggan slides.