- INVERNESS: Due to the efforts of the Inverness Development Agency (IDA) and the Inverness County Accessibility Committee, those with mobility issues now have the opportunity to put beach days to good use.
On July 23, several hundred people visited the boardwalk in Inverness to celebrate the completion of the Inverness Boardwalk Project, which is estimated to have cost in the ballpark of $360,000. A number of upgrades to the boardwalk were made, including upgrades to the washroom and shower facilities, modification to make parking easier, and safety measures.
Most notably, ramps now allow people on the boardwalk to access the beach. Due to the inclusion of Mobi-Mats, people in wheelchairs can now roll directly onto the sand. With that, walkers and beach chairs allow people with disabilities access to the water.
President of the IDA, Rob Burbach, served as master of ceremonies of the grand re-opening. He and several other speakers noted that the renovations have made the Inverness Beach the most accessible beach in Atlantic Canada.
Serving as the driving force behind the project were Callum MacQuarrie, a co-chair of the Inverness County Accessibility Committee, and Rose Mary MacDonald, the vice-president of the IDA.
“I was at a meeting with Rose Mary, and she mentioned the new boardwalk that they were building,” said MacQuarrie, explaining how the project came to focus on increasing accessibility. “I said I’ll look after the accessible part. If it wasn’t for cooperation between Inverness County Accessibility Committee and the IDA, none of this would have come true.
“We want to pass all the information we have here onto other communities.”
MacDonald echoed MacQuarrie’s remarks about offering insights to other communities, so that other beaches become accessible.
“We came up with the idea of having new stairs and a ramp off the boardwalk,” she said. “We looked at access for all with a newly renovated canteen, washrooms that have been upgraded and made accessible with non-slip flooring. We also came up with an education piece around dune protection. You’ll see signs reading ‘use the boardwalk’ or ‘use the stairs.’”
With that, she mentioned the boardwalk project is also responsible for a beach patroller position to compliment the efforts of the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service. The project is also responsible for a lifeguard stand from which lifeguards can more easily spot trouble like riptides.
MacDonald said funding for the project came from a number of sources including all three levels of government and independent groups like the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Burbach added that businesses and community groups were very willing to pitch in.
D.J. MacLean and Sons Contracting donated time and manpower to get the renovations done; Freeman’s Pharmacy donated a defibrillator in memory of Jeanette MacKinnon, and Cabot Links provided labour and support, he said.
Several others spoke at the event, and all congratulated the community of Inverness for now having the most accessible beach in Atlantic Canada.
“Inverness is setting an example for the rest of Atlantic Canada,” said Inverness Warden Betty Anne MacQuarrie. She was accompanied by councillor Laurie Cranton, who co-chairs the Inverness County Accessibility Committee with MacQuarrie.
“I’ve been in a wheelchair for 37 years, and people sometimes ask me what I’d like to do that I can’t,” he said. “The one thing I’ve always said is that you can’t be on a beach in a wheelchair.”
He congratulated MacQuarrie for the elbow grease that went into leading the project.
“Callum mentioned this to me one day, and a week later he had the applications in – ready to roll,” Cranton said. “It happened faster than anything I’ve ever seen before.”
MP for Cape Breton-Canso Rodger Cuzner was on hand to congratulate the community
“I have a soft spot for issues around accessibility,” he said. “I grew up with six kids in our family, my brother Paul was a year younger than me, and he had cerebral palsy. When we would go on vacation, my father would throw the wheel chair on top of the trailer. It was limited where we could go because of the challenges facing my brother.
“This is a great project, and it has to become commonplace in our thinking when we develop assets in our community.”
Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster also gave the project a thumbs up.
“Consider what this project means for other people,” he said. “I think about all the people who want to come to Inverness Beach and enjoy the full experience. To give people the ability to get out into the water is wonderful.
“I commend you for doing this, and I hope it takes one elsewhere in the province.”