In June 1910, Sir Richard McBride, Premier of B.C., reserved an area in the centre of Vancouver Island for a park.
The park was named Strathcona after Donald Alexander Smith – Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, Alberta. Lord Strathcona was also well known for having driven the last spike on the trans-continental railway.
To formalize the extent of the park, Price Ellison, Minister of Lands, set off to explore the area and reached the top of Crown Mountain on July 29, 1910. Crown Mountain’s location afforded an incredible view of some of the most impressive summits on Vancouver Island, undoubtedly confirming this area as the new park. After completing his trip, Ellison submitted his report of the expedition to the BC Cabinet and on March 11, 1911, Strathcona Park was officially designated and became BC’s first Provincial Park.
One hundred years have now past and BC Parks is celebrating its’ Centennial with events around the province. Sponsored by Mountain Equipment Co-op and the provincial government’’s Park Enhancement Fund, the Accessible Wilderness Society together with BC Parks, the Campbell River and Comox Valley Access Committees, Strathcona Wilderness Institute, and Mount Washington Alpine Resort, are inviting everyone to visit Paradise Meadows in Strathcona Park on Aug. 21 for a Family Fun Day for Every-Body.
Unlike the time of Ellison’s expedition, Strathcona Park is now more accessible than ever and this Centennial Event is designed to encourage everyone to come up and enjoy this magnificent sub-alpine area.
With the completion of the barrier-free, 2 km Centennial Loop and the Strathcona Park Wilderness Centre in 2010, Paradise Meadows can now be explored by young and old, families with strollers, seniors with walkers and visitors with wheelchairs or scooters.
There are many people who believe that Strathcona Park is only accessible by the physically strong and able, and while the park does offer challenging destinations, there are trails suited to every ability level.
The intent of Family Fun Day for Every-Body, is to raise everyone’s awareness about the parks’ accessibility and get people to come out and experience it, perhaps for the first time.
The event will run from 12:30-3:30 p.m., with a Naturalist lead tour around the Centennial Loop starting at 1 p.m. While there will be some refreshments available including complimentary Centennial Cake, donated by Thrifty Foods, a picnic lunch is suggested for those who may build up a strong appetite.
The Honourable Steven Fletcher, Government of Canada’s Minister of State (Transport) will also be attending the day’s event on the mountain.
At the trailhead, located beside Mount Washington’s Nordic Raven Lodge (not the upper main alpine lodge), visitors will find the wheelchair accessible, Strathcona Park Wilderness Centre, which is operated by the non-profit Strathcona Wilderness Institute.
Inside the building, they hope to have free, ongoing viewings of the “Strathcona Centennial Expedition” movie.
Also on site will be a free to use, spare wheelchair fitted with the incredible “Free-Wheel” attachment (allows ordinary wheelchairs to smoothly glide over uneven terrain) with a spare for those wishing to try the attachment on their own chair.
For those interested, there will also be on site a “Trail-rider”, a one-wheel unit that can be used with some volunteer sherpas, to transport a person over the most rugged terrain and up mountains.
The Trail-rider will be available for short trials and if you like it, they hope to develop a program to get people out further into the park.
Family Fun Day for Every-Body is simply a day to come out and enjoy Strathcona Park for a couple of hours or a whole day if you prefer.
If you have never been there, or felt that you couldn’t do it, this is the day for you.
For more information see Strathcona Park website http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/strath or phone Dan Bauer – Accessible Wilderness Society – 250-923-9612 or Judy Ridgeway at 250-286-1161.