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Stroke of paddling brilliance for mobility-challenged in Quesnel

Quesnel Legion breaks new water with accessibility dock at Dragon Lake

Out on the water, mobility issues dissolve into the waves.

Getting into the water, however, can be a chore at best and an impossibility in many locations.

But not one particular spot on Dragon Lake. Quesnel has just become a paddling destination for the whole province, thanks to the new accessibility dock installed by Royal Canadian Legion Branch 94, and not coincidentally it is located at Legion Beach, a campsite and recreation area at the northwest end of the lake, conveniently located near the residential and business areas of South Quesnel. Those with mobility challenges can enjoy the many benefits of water recreation, now that this specialized dock has been officially opened.

“It will serve the entire north. If people want to come from all over, it is free for the public to use, and we hope the public will treat it with respect and care for it, and I think they will,” said Darcy Horn, one of the leaders of the dock project for the Quesnel Legion. He was among the crowd of supporters on hand for the maiden voyage taken on Thursday (Sept. 28).

Knowing this was a new kind of infrastructure for the area, Horn walked The Observer and the general public through the concept.

“We have a camping facility on Dragon Lake, it’s called Legion Beach, and a lot of people come there for camping, for picnicking, but there was no ability to access the water and enjoy water recreation if you have mobility issues,” he said. “I don’t believe there is another site north of the Okanagan that offers this Cadillac kind of kayak launch. If a person has issues with mobility, or balance, this provides a stable foundation to put the kayak on, then the individual just slides over on a bench, they sit themselves in their kayak, and then rollers on the launch itself allow them to slide into the water and ‘way they go, they can just start paddling. Same thing when they are finished: they come in from the other end, push themselves back up onto the launch using the bars on the sides. They put themselves back on the bench, out of their kayak, and away they go. It works just fabulously.”

The idea was brought forward in past years by former Legion president Jim Spencer, who was on hand to see the fruit of that seed.

The challenge from the start was the cost. The whole purchase and installation price totalled about $90,000. Horn said they were able to obtain grants in the amount of about $73,500 and the Quesnel Legion covered the rest. He heartily thanked all the sponsors who came forward with money for this visionary equipment. The largest contribution came from the Quesnel Community Foundation, and the others, all of them important, included Northern Development Initiative Trust, the North Cariboo Community Futures Development Corporation, New Horizons For Seniors Program (federal government), and BC Old Age Pensioners Organization. Horn added that Wells mayor Ed Coleman was also helpful as a supporter of the project.

The Dragon Lake Paddlers group was on hand for the unveiling of the innovative new dock, and one of their members, Ruth Campbell, took a kayak for the demonstration cruise.

“They (the funders and supporters) saw where there money went, the asset that was gained, and the value that it’ll have for the community and for anywhere up north where people come from,” said Horn. He anticipates local paddlers with mobility challenges will enjoy the autumn on the lake, and when Legion Beach’s campground opens in spring he believes there will be interest from out of town in this rare recreation access point to the many benefits of water recreation at Dragon Lake.

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