Accessibility and conservation advocates are teaming up to transform Baxter Conservation Area into the most accessible nature destination in Eastern Ontario – but they need your help.
The Nature For All committee is working to upgrade Baxter’s bridges, boardwalks, trails and facilities to the gold standard of accessibility to make the park as inclusive as possible to all ages and abilities.
Nature For All is now seeking funding partners and donations for Phase 1, which requires $750,000 to build a brand new, fully accessible bridge across Baxter’s marshlands – complete with several education platforms overlooking the water.
“You can be a plank on the path toward equity and inclusion,” said Diane Downey, executive director of the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation, which is leading the campaign. “Nature should be accessible for people of all ages and abilities, and this project will bring that vision closer to reality.”
The Plank by Plank campaign aims to raise $25,000 to cover the 1,000 wooden planks required to build the new bridge and boardwalk, which has a total project cost around $1 million. Members of the public can donate one plank for $25 or adopt a metre for $100. They can also donate a metre of accessible railings for $50 or a bag of hardware for $10.
The current bridge has reached the end of its life cycle and was closed as a safety precaution in 2019. Replacing it presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make Baxter’s infrastructure as inclusive as possible. The new bridge will be wide enough for two people in wheelchairs to pass safely and easily; two large, accessible viewing platforms will facilitate better and more inclusive outdoor education programs, helping students with special needs get up close and personal with the natural world.
“Nature and wilderness should be for everybody. That’s where you begin to find yourself: when you can get into nature and be at one with yourself,” said Mike Nemesvary, founder of Nature For All and long-time accessibility advocate. He 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. “Baxter Conservation (will be) a model of accessibility for other conservation areas. People from all across Canada can come here and see how much effort and time was put into the planning, and that the planning has really paid off.”
Nature For All’s fundraising efforts are being spearheaded by the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation, the charitable partner of Rideau Valley Conservation Authority which owns Baxter Conservation Area. The Foundation is a registered charity that can offer custom corporate sponsorship agreements and donor packages, with benefits to donor organizations such as media recognition, team building opportunities, naming rights and on-site signage.
To learn more about Nature For All or to make a donation visit www.rvcf.ca/nature-for-all. To discuss corporate sponsorship packages and partnerships contact firstname.lastname@example.org.