Results of GaLTT’s Beach and Trail Accessibility Survey

Gabriola Land and Trails Trust

Submitted Article

Wednesday, November 27 2019

Last spring, Gabriola Land and Trails Trust (GaLTT) conducted a survey about the accessibility of natural spaces on our island. The initial goal was to provide information on the accessibility of Gabriola Sands Provincial Park (Twin Beaches) to complement a BC Parks-funded accessibility project there and to suggest potential specific improvements, but GaLTT used this opportunity to gather accessibility information on all the parks and trail systems on the island.

We asked questions about demographics, about how people currently use (or don’t use) our beaches and trails; about what kind of impediments prevent their use of them; and what their priorities for improvements to accessibility are. Most respondents filled the survey online, but a few preferred to fill printed copies that were available at the two medical clinics, at the library, Rollo Centre, and Islands Trust offices. GaLTT sent the extensive raw survey data collected to Wave Consulting for analysis, and now the summary document of findings (with a more complete description of methodology) is available for download from GaLTT’s website www.galtt.ca.

GaLTT thanks the 284 Gabriolans who filled in the survey. Analysis shows a 95 per cent confidence level that your responses are reflective of the Gabriola community as a whole (with a margin of error of ±6 per cent). The results made it clear that Gabriolans value accessibility to natural spaces, both for those with existing restrictions to mobility and for those who are part of an aging population. They specifically identified impediments to access and priorities for action.

There were some clear contradictions in individual priorities, and we received thoughtful comments on the need for balance, such as, “This is very tricky...would I be willing to sacrifice the natural state of these areas so [people with mobility restrictions] can enjoy them? How selfish do I get to be? Is there some compromise possible?”

The survey responses have given GaLTT a lot of valuable information to work with. Some usage patterns and priorities were reasonably easy to predict, but the data contained some surprises too. The GaLTT Board’s next steps will be to review the findings and use them to help identify opportunities for improvement, to lobby relevant government agencies, and plan specific projects. In doing so, we will always keep our organizational mission of “conserve and connect” in mind. We must balance future action plans with protection of natural spaces as we develop projects to benefit our community by making Gabriola’s recreational areas more inclusive and welcoming to people of all abilities.