The staff and residents of two homes for disabled adults turned a Langley political announcement Friday into a chance to protest the lack of wheelchair accessibility.
Langley MP Mark Warawa and acting mayor David Davis, Township Councillor Petrina Arnason, and several staffers arrived at Williams Park the afternoon of July 31.
They were met by the residents of Graceline Gates and Ruby Willows, two nearby private care homes.
Operated by mother and daughter Terry Loeffler and Tammy Guy, the homes are a very short distance from the park.
Their residents are frequently escorted to Williams Park to enjoy the fresh air and natural beauty.
However, when they heard that politicians were coming, Loeffler and Guy decided to try to get a little attention for making the park more accessible for their clients.
“We just would like them to make it more accessible for people with wheelchairs,” said Guy.
Getting down from the upper picnic levels to the lower slopes near the creek is difficult even on the paved path on the park’s west side, noted Guy.
Candina Vallieres, a resident who has difficulty speaking because of a stroke, pointed out that she can walk and can make the trip. But her fellow residents in wheelchairs can’t head down to see the creek. It’s difficult to push them back up the long slope.
In addition, the circular driveway around the upper part of the park mostly lacks sidewalks, is rutted and cracked in places, and is quite narrow.
When heading out along the north side, people in wheelchairs have to get off the road completely, into the dirt, if a car approaches from behind.
The washrooms are less than ideal as well.
The two care homes have been located on the street for four years, and the residents like visiting the park year round, including during the annual Christmas In Willliams Park events that see the trees lit up with thousands of lights.
The residents of the homes are relatively young adults, not seniors, and some of them are more mobile than others.
Williams Park was originally created as a Canadian centennial project in 1967.
Part of the announcement on Friday was about major renovations to the existing structures. A $250,000 grant from Western Economic Development Canada, matched by Langley Township, will be used to upgrade the picnic shelter and interpretive kiosk and add new playground equipment, and will relocate the well water filtration system.
Davis and Township staff spoke with the protesters and said they would look into their concerns for the park’s accessibility.