Funicular helps Edmonton man with cerebral palsy experience river valley for first time

While some see Edmonton's $24-million funicular as a white elephant, others like Zachary Weeks say it gives them their first chance to see the river valley.

'I didn’t anticipate to check [that] off my bucket list,' says Zachary Weeks

Zachary Weeks took his first trip down to the river valley in Edmonton's new funicular on Monday. (Zachary Weeks/Supplied)

While some see Edmonton's $24-million funicular as a white elephant, others like Zachary Weeks say it gives them their first chance to experience the river valley.

Weeks, who has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair and had only seen the river valley through photos or from vehicles. But after taking his first trip down the funicular Monday, he finally saw what everyone had been raving about.

"It's amazing," Weeks told CBC's Radio Active Wednesday. "To be able to do that the other day was definitely something that I didn't anticipate to check off my bucket list."

The funicular, which opened Saturday, is one of a few river valley projects Edmonton is building alongside the River Valley Alliance.

Mayor Don Iveson said the funicular will be worth the price tag because of the tourism and brand promotion it provides.

Weeks said he understands the perspective of some Edmontonians who complain about the $24-million price tag.

"That's a fair chunk of change to invest in an elevator, if you will," he said. "At the same time, I think it's something that's going to be a tourist attraction."

But the funicular's main selling point is accessibility, Weeks said.

"Up until now, the means of getting there have never been available," he said. "It was really something to be able to go down there and check out the river valley, just like everyone else."

The new lookout over the river valley promises a great view in all directions. (City of Edmonton)

Weeks posted about his experience on Twitter, expressing his gratitude for being able to see a different side of Edmonton.

"I never expected to get that much response back," he said.

One man who responded said Weeks' gratitude changed his mind.

"Initially, he wasn't in favour of the funicular," Weeks said. "Then, when he saw the story and my tweet come out, he sort of switched sides."

Weeks said the funicular goes a long way in making more amenities around the city accessible to all.

"It's very exciting to have a funicular in Edmonton that people such as myself or mothers with strollers or seniors can now use to gain access to the river valley," Weeks said.

"We're not quite there yet in terms of accessibility and making sure that things are able to be widely used by everyone," he said. "[But] we're getting better."

Listen to Radio Active with host Portia Clark, weekday afternoons on CBC Radio One, 93.9 FM/740 AM in Edmonton. Follow the show on Twitter: @CBCRadioActive.

With files from Emily Rendell-Watson