Baxter Conservation Area’s accessible boardwalk bridge now open

This afternoon marks the official opening of the Baxter Conservation Area’s Accessible Boardwalk Bridge, located around 10 kilometres south of Kars.

With the vision of creating an accessible nature destination for all, the new and improved boardwalk bridge is intended to promote a more inclusive and accessible community, said the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation (RVCF).

The foundation has spent years working to transform this idea into a reality — planning and fundraising in an effort to build a bridge twice as wide as the former decommissioned bridge that includes railings and gradual slopes.

With accessibility as a priority, features include an extra-wide deck, appropriate sight-lines for people in wheelchairs and strollers, and a large education platform to help students of all abilities to learn about the natural world, noted the RVCF.

“The project is about creating an inclusive society,” Mike Nemesvary, Nature For All committee chair, said.

The design for Baxter's new accessible bridge. Photo by Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation.
The design for Baxter’s new accessible bridge. Photo by Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation.

Following an accident that left Nemesvary paralyzed while training to become a world champion freestyle skier, the disability advocate has been visiting Baxter in his wheelchair for nearly 20 years.

“The pedestrian bridge is absolutely gold star, allowing for people with mobility impairments going both ways,” he added.

The organization’s fundraising efforts raised over $800,000 in support from individual donors, community organizations, government grants and corporate sponsorships, said the RVCF.

A $50,000 grant was awarded in 2022 by the City of Ottawa under the Rural Community-Building Grant Program, helping the Foundation’s Nature For All committee transform Baxter’s 80-hectare natural park into an accessible nature destination.

The committee has also worked to upgrade the park’s five kilometres of trail, including wider boardwalks and more wheelchair-friendly graded stone-dust paths.

“With my partner, 25 years ago, we fell in love with the area and we had a vision to bring it up to a higher standard — and long behold it’s starting to materialize, so today is really a day of celebration,” Nemesvary said.

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