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B.C. Parks replaces picnic tables to improve wheelchair accessibility

Dec 06 2011

Picnic tables in B.C. Parks recently underwent a redesign to make the popular eating spots more accessible for people in wheelchairs.

B.C. Parks is spending $100,000 on 100 tables that also feature seating that is easier to get on and off for everyone. About 20 will be wheelchair accessible and installed by summer.

The concrete base for the tables is built in sections instead of the single slab used in the old design. That allows the benches to be replaced with shorter slabs to make room for wheelchairs.

The new tables will be installed at the province's most popular parks throughout 2012 to replace the older structures, but parks with high demand for wheelchair access will take priority, according to the Ministry of Environment.

New tables will be available in both campsites and day-use picnic areas.

"One of B.C. Parks' priorities is to ensure accessibility for all and to offer everyone the opportunity to experience first-hand the splendour of B.C.'s provincial parks," Environment Minister Terry Lake said. "The new picnic tables are one example, and an important one, of demonstrating our commitment to make B.C. Parks more inclusive."

The money is coming from the capital budget for parks.

"B.C. Parks replaces picnic tables all the time only now we're replacing them with a better, more accessible design," said Lauren Mulholland, a senior public affairs officer for the Ministry of Environment.

Several of the tables have been installed in Rathtrevor Provincial Park near Parksville and Golden Ears Provincial Park near Maple Ridge.

The design maintains the use of western red cedar wood, iconic for B.C. Parks picnic tables.

Jonathan Lambert of McElhanney Engineering Services Ltd. designed the latest version when he was an engineering student at the University of B.C. in 2008.

MacKay Precast Products in Nanaimo has produced the concrete base for the B.C. Parks tables since the 1990s.

Not everyone, however, thinks this is an improvement.

Brenden Sherington never noticed the alternate design of a prototype that was installed in the picnic area at Goldstream Provincial Park last year.

Sitting on the bench, he was unable to detect any improved accessibility.

"I don't see it," he said. "It's still just as close."

But the new designs improve upon the prototypes, Sarah Joanisse of B.C. Parks south Vancouver Island district said. The new benches are farther from the table tops, she said.

"I haven't seen it since they did the tweaking, but I think they changed it so the bench is angled out more," she said.

dspalding@timescolonist.com