Being together in the wild means no one gets left behind – everyone deserves the opportunity to travel, explore, and experience the incredible enrichment it brings. Throughout British Columbia, tourism destinations are changing their products and services to be more accessible and inclusive. In support of the Accessible British Columbia Act, the Harrison River Valley is dedicated to creating a destination that’s inclusive to all, which includes being on the Accessible Tourism List.
According to Stats Canada, the latest Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) reported that 22% of Canadians aged 15 years and older have a disability. This includes ten different disability types: developmental, memory, dexterity, learning, seeing, hearing, mental health-related, mobility, flexibility, and pain-related. People with disabilities represent 16% of the world’s population – an astounding 1.3 billion people – according to the World Health Organization (WHO). All tourist facilities, products, and services should be a central part of any responsible and sustainable tourist policy.
We believe everyone should have the opportunity to let their spirits soar in nature, and are fully supportive of ongoing improvements to infrastructure, products, and services to accommodate all of our visitors. A great example would be the investments BC Sports Fishing Group and Harrison Eco Tours have made to strengthen their offerings to those with disabilities.
Tony Nootebos, owner of both companies, has worked with the Rick Hansen Foundation to open the opportunity for guided fishing and experiences in nature to a wider range of people with mobility limitations. Specialized fishing technologies and tools have been developed to open fishing to a wide range of people. For example, a “sip and puff” fishing rod & reel has been designed that can enable quadriplegics to experience fishing again, or for the first time. Tourism Harrison River Valley had the pleasure of collaborating with the ‘Man in Motion’, Rick Hansen. Renowned for his passionate support of people with disabilities and having launched a 26 month, 34 country, 40,000 km wheelchair trip around the world to prove the potential of people with disabilities and to raise funds for spinal cord injury research, Hansen is a visionary. Tourism Harrison is honoured to have his support as we continue to make fishing expeditions more accessible.
The Village of Harrison Hot Springs is a designated Age-Friendly Community, meaning accessibility has been improved for its older adults, which benefits all visitors to the community. This includes accessibility to and within public buildings (limiting stairs and including wheelchair ramps and accessible washrooms), flat sidewalks, pathways and trails; and accessible washrooms with wide push-button doors, rails, and rest areas, including benches. On the lakeside promenade, there are 5 wheelchair accessible entry and exit points located at the Harrison Resort, Civic Centre Plaza, Maple Street, Chehalis Street, and the Boat Launch. The Village has also invested in Mobi-Mats which are portable non-slip wheelchair mats that provide accessibility to beaches and parks for individuals with limited physical abilities.
For those with mental health-related disabilities, Ya Doma Forest Therapy offers Nature Experiences to promote healing of trauma and psychological dis-ease. They currently offer sessions in Forest Therapy, Jikiden Reiki, Cold Water Immersion and Breathwork, as well as Clinical Counselling. Clinical Counsellor Kim Verigin holds services in the heart of nature, which is proven to be a powerful setting for regulating the nervous system. Take part in one of the morning meditation group gatherings to build connection and support.
There are so many other ways for those with disabilities to take part: people with visual impairments will enjoy the vibrant sounds of our musical events like Bands on the Beach, the Harrison Festival of the Arts concerts, as well as listening to the story telling and drumming at Sasquatch Days. For those with hearing impairments, many hiking trails offer signage detailing local history, and features of the trail. The Spirit Trail is a favourite as not only is there informative signage to read, but also dozens of hand-crafted clay masks adorn the trees along the pathway. Qwóltz Park and the Source: Harrison’s Hot Springs were first used as a healing place by the Sts’Ailes people known as “kwals” or Qwólts, the Halq’eméylem word meaning boiling water. There is now a small park with interpretive signage to learn more about local Indigenous history. This is a short 1 km gravel trail leaving from the Harrison Hot Springs Resort, to the hot springs source.
MORE WAYS TO EXPLORE
Agassiz Speedway is open seasonally and operated by Kent Raceway Society, a non-profit society dedicated to supporting and furthering the sport of stock car racing in the Fraser Valley. They are wheelchair accessible and have seating for 1000 people in the grandstand. Check out the schedule for more details.
Cheam Wetlands is home to an abundance of wildlife and approximately 2 km of flat gravel trails on which to view it. There is a wheelchair accessible viewing platform close to the parking area.
Our new Visitor Centre and Sasquatch Museum is currently under construction, and is designed to provide accessibility to all, to provide much-needed room to celebrate our historical and indigenous roots, and to provide an attraction that will serve Harrison Hot Springs for years to come.
“Accessibility takes into consideration the many different ways people experience their community and the world around them. Ensuring spaces are accessible, safe and inclusive means that people of all abilities can fully participate and engage in the places where they live, learn, work and play. By focusing on accessibility and inclusivity at a gold-level standard in the design and construction of a new facility, the Harrison Visitor Information Centre & Sasquatch Museum will lead the way in ensuring visitors feel welcomed and can immerse themselves in the history, artifacts and lore of this beautiful region.” Rick Hansen, Founder, Rick Hansen Foundation
During construction of the new Visitor Centre, you can visit us at our temporary Visitor Centre at 102, 160 Lillooet Avenue in Harrison Hot Springs. For more accessible travel inspiration, check us out on Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest or Facebook! Click the link below to learn more about Harrison River Valley.