Sally Fitz-Gibbon’s dream for Islanders with disabilities to be able to enjoy Bowen’s trails has come to fruition.
An all-terrain Mountain Trike, designed for people with mobility issues, rolled into the Bowen Island library last month. It was around this time last year, while Fitz-Gibbon was volunteering at the library, that she met a couple that wanted to enjoy a summer stroll in the local trails.
Fitz-Gibbon took one look at the man’s “flimsy” wheelchair and her heart sank. She just knew the couple wouldn’t be able to explore very far. “They wanted to go up Dorman Point and I talked them out of it because it was not accessible at all for them,” said Fitz-Gibbon.
She then tried to figure somewhere else scenic on Bowen for the couple to go, a path the wheelchair could handle, but she came up short. The couple left the library feeling dejected.
“And I think they were crying. I was almost crying. I was so upset about this couple that couldn’t really do anything on Bowen,” said Fitz-Gibbon.
That encounter touched Fitz-Gibbon so much that she jumped into action and approached the Bowen Island Public Library Foundation about her idea for a Mountain Trike. Librarian Tina Nielsen said because the Bowen library already lends out medical equipment through the Med Shed, adding the Mountain Trike to its inventory was no problem.
All Fitz-Gibbon needed now was the funding for the $7,600 tricked-out Mountain Trike, which boasts suspension and three main wheels instead of four, making it much easier for the person pushing it to maneuver around the trails. So Fitz-Gibbon applied, on behalf of the library foundation, for a grant from the Bowen Island Community Foundation.
“When the idea was introduced to the Foundation, we quickly realized that the Mountain Trike is a wonderful tool to provide increased accessibility to many of our wonderful trails, especially given the terrain here on Bowen,” said Bowen Island Community Foundation director Kim Stephens.
The Foundation paid for the all-terrain trike by drawing on grant monies from two of their funding sources: the Community Impact Fund and the Maggie Cumming Legacy Endowment Fund.
Stephens said the Foundation’s Community Impact Fund supports “good ideas” that respond to the spirit of one or more key themes developed by community members at the Vital Conversations event in May 2014.
“The Mountain Trike blends several aspects of Vital Conservations themes: the environment, the needs of seniors and the needs of others who are marginalized by physical disabilities,” said Stephens. “We view the Mountain Trike as a way of promoting the beauty of our natural environment, giving those with some physical limitations the means to access and enjoy Bowen’s trail system.”
It was important to the Foundation, added Stephens, that the Mountain Trike be available on loan from the library at no cost.
The library will make the wheelchair trike available by appointment to anyone with a Bowen library card to borrow for the day. There is a short orientation, explains Nielsen, to ensure the adventurers are comfortable with the trike.
But there is one caveat: the Mountain Trike can’t be put in a vehicle and taken to another part of the island. There are designated routes the library has set out for liability reasons. Most of the Crippen Park trails check out, said Nielsen.
So far there have been no takers for the trike, but only because it hasn’t been advertised yet. Anyone with mobility issues, as long as they can hold themselves upright, is encouraged to give the trike a try.
“It doesn’t have to be somebody completely disabled, it could be someone’s elderly relative,” said Nielsen.
Fitz-Gibbon, who has seen the Mountain Trike, said it’s absolutely beautiful.
“I think it’s wonderful everyone can now experience a bit of nature on Bowen,” she said.
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