RVCA Gets $429k For Accessibility Projects

Baxter and Chapman Mills conservation areas are fast becoming some of Ottawa’s most inclusive natural parks thanks to more than $429,000 in recent funding from the federal government.

Nepean MP Chandra Arya announced the funding through the Canada Community Revitalization Fund on Dec. 15 at the Manotick headquarters of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA), which it shares with its charitable foundation, the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation (RVCF).

Baxter Conservation Area in Kars will receive a total of $279,900 from the fund to help replace its decommissioned marshland bridge with a state-of-the-art accessible span over the Baxter marsh. The funding also supports wheelchair-accessible learning platforms attached to the bridge to make the site’s outdoor education programs more inclusive.

Nepean MP Chandra Arya, left, announced federal funding at the RVCA headquarters in Manotick on Dec. 15. Attendees included RVCA Conservation Lands Director Dan Cooper, Nature For All chair Mike Nemesvary, RVCA chair Pieter Leenhouts, Ottawa councillors Steve Desroches and Wilson Lo, RVCF Director Diane Downey, Nature For All committee members Maryanne McPhee and Wendy Eberwein, RVCA General Manager Sommer Casgrain-Robertson and RVCF chair Andrew Harkness.

Chapman Mills Conservation Area in Barrhaven will receive $150,000 from the same fund to replace its north-end pedestrian bridge with a safer, more accessible span.

“These projects would not have been possible without this incredible federal support,” said RVCA Chair Pieter Leenhouts. “We are excited to reopen both bridges to so we can properly welcome people of all ages and abilities to our beautiful sites.”

Work has already begun on both projects.

Nature For All

A dedicated volunteer committee has spearheaded the Nature For All project at Baxter Conservation Area, pursuing their goal to create Eastern Ontario’s most accessible nature destination.

Those efforts have included liaising and advocating within the community to increase support for the project. We thank our valued community and corporate sponsors for their support, including generous financial contributions from:

  • 100 Women Who Care
  • 1st Greely Cubs
  • City of Ottawa (Rural Community-Building Grant)
  • Fjällräven
  • Fedex Canada
  • Girl Gone Good
  • The Gosling Foundation

Being in nature is good for body and soul, but people with disabilities are disproportionately excluded from outdoor spaces because they’re inaccessible, unsafe or both. The RVCA has worked with renowned accessibility consultant Marnie Peters to create a matrix of the world’s best outdoor accessibility solutions and apply them to infrastructure projects where possible going forward.

“Nature and wilderness should be for everybody,” said Mike Nemesvary, founder of the Nature For All committee and long-time accessibility advocate. He has been visiting Baxter in his power wheelchair for 20 years, after a training accident in his 20s left him paralyzed on his path to becoming a world champion freestyle skier.

His motivation to transform Baxter began with “a sincere desire to share with everyone of all ages and abilities this under-utilized gem of a local park with its 80 hectares of interpretive education centre, boardwalks, trails, sandy beach, camp site, wilderness and multi-layered ecosystems – all within Ottawa’s city limits,” Nemesvary said at the funding announcement on Dec. 15.

“Every idea starts with a dream, and that dream must be manifested by bringing together the right group at the right time who share attainable objectives,” said Nemesvary. “We fundamentally knew it would be a challenge, but we ploughed ahead methodically with our planning and research. Slowly but surely, others started to see how much more we could do.”

To learn more about the Foundation’s Nature For All and Chapman Mills projects visit