Twenty-five years ago, while in rehab after a bad car wreck, Dan Bauer overheard a father tell his family to sell their fishing boat after an accident left him a quadriplegic.
Upset over the man’s fate, Bauer decided right then and there he would design a place where physical disabilities would not interfere with enjoying the outdoors.
“The concept behind the resort is no dad will have to tell their kids they can’t take them fishing, they can do that here,” said Bauer, who lives in Campbell River. He formed the Accessible Wilderness Society along with his wife Judy, and the organization is in the final stages of securing 28 acres of lakefront property at Roberts Lake, about 25 minutes north of the city.
It’s there they want to build a resort that will be accessible to everybody so not only able-bodied people can enjoy it, but those with physical disabilities and seniors.
The resort would include a lodge with 16 rooms and a campsite with 14 stalls. The parking spaces would be a little wider than a typical spot and all bedrooms and washroom facilities would be wheelchair accessible.
Bauer, who is in a wheelchair himself and a paraplegic since 1985 after suffering a spinal cord injury in a car accident, knows how important this type of facility is.
“Often I’ll go to a hotel that’s accessible for me but once I’m there, I think ‘great, now what can I do,’” he said.
The Accessible Wilderness Society’s resort would have plenty of options, from kayaking to fishing to hiking. Bauer said the hiking trails would be able to accommodate a wheelchair but don’t expect any concrete.
“We really want to promote the wilderness so the trail would definitely not be paved but it would be hard-packed and as level as possible, with debris removed,” said Bauer.
He would also like to work with other businesses to offer whale and bear watching day trips and even scuba diving.
The resort would be the first of its kind in the province.
“This would be the first one, the prototype. We’d be blazing an original trail,” said Bauer. “It’s unique because it’s using universal design, everything is accessible.”
Meaning the resort would be built as barrier free as possible and be a place for “every body,” said Bauer.“Nobody has to stay home. This way, a family can stay together for the summer and enjoy the outdoors together.”
Although Bauer figures the resort is about two to three years away, there’s already lots of interest.
He has had inquiries from people as far away as Portugal and Ireland who are interested in building similar facilities. And a tourism company in Germany already has a group that would like to come.
“We’re going to end up bringing hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors to Campbell River that wouldn’t normally come here,” said Bauer. “The biggest thing is everybody’s welcome, we’re not going to chase anybody away.”