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P.E.I. man disappointed Western Brook trail not fully accessible to people with mobility issues

The new trail leading into Western Brook Pond continues to be met with a lot of objection.
Ron Zakar of P.E.I. would like to see some kind of shuttle service offered on the Western Brook Pond trail in Gros Morne National Park to enable people with mobility issues to take in the boat tour. - Contributed
CORNER BROOK, N.L. —

When Ron Zakar visited Gros Morne National Park this summer one of the things he planned to do was take the boat tour at Western Brook Pond.

But the Breadalbane, P.E.I. man was disappointed when he learned it wouldn’t be possible.

“And I was all set, I wanted to take the tour,” he said.

The problem is to get to the boat launch visitors have to hike about three kilometres over a gravel trail.

Zakar, 67, has some mobility issues and knew it wouldn't be possible.

He was told at the park’s visitor centre in Rocky Harbour there was a wheelchair available, but it wasn’t motorized. Zakar was travelling alone, so trying to manoeuver the wheelchair over the trail seemed a bid daunting to him.

“I was disappointed. One, that I couldn’t do it and I was disappointed; two, that people such as myself couldn’t do it.”

That left Zakar thinking there had to be a solution to the problem, and he feels having golf carts to shuttle people with mobility issues to and from the boat launch is the answer.

“How much could one of those be?” 

Zakar said he would happily pay extra for a shuttle service and thinks other people would, too.

“I would just love the see that. I would love to take that tour.”

He’s certain the cost of the carts would be paid off in short order.

That’s why he sent an email to Gros Morne National Park suggesting just that.

The response was there is no motorized access to the Western Brook Pond boat tour for tourists yet, and it may be a project in the future to cater to tourists with mobility issues.

Zakar’s reply to that is: “God, it’s 2019. Come on, folks, let’s get it done.” 

He understands the park doesn’t want to do anything that might damage the environment.

“But if you took it to its furthest point, you could say, well here now, folks, you’re discriminating against people with mobility issues.” 

Parks Canada wouldn’t speak directly about the correspondence it received from Zakar. 

An emailed response from a spokesperson with Gros Morne said Parks Canada strives to make its parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas accessible to as many Canadians as possible.

This past spring work was completed on the Western Brook trail to make it wider, with reduced grades and an even surface. It also plans to add more rest areas over the coming years.

Strollers and wheelchairs can be used on the trail, which is also now wide enough for emergency vehicles to access the area.

The changes, the email said, will make it easier for people using personal mobility devices to access the pond and allow Parks Canada to explore the feasibility of providing enhanced mobility assistance in the future. Something included in the 10-year management plan for Gros Morne.

Zakar said the situation won’t deter him from visiting Newfoundland again and he’s hopeful that he’ll be able to get on the trail next year.

diane.crocker@thewesternstar.com
Twitter: WS_DianeCrocker

Weblinks

https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/nl/grosmorne/info/plan/gestion-management-2019

https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/nl/grosmorne/visit/infra/wbp


 

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