Confederation Trail now more accessible thanks to this P.E.I. man
'I've been able to open up and just get out … able to enjoy the outdoors, get away from traffic'
A bike crash changed Alan Stanley's life seven years ago. Now, he's changing the lives of others.
Stanley has worked with Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow, an online platform that uses crowd-sourced information on the accessibility of public spaces and venues, to provide information on the trail's accessibility for users with disabilities.
This will help those with mobility issues like himself to go out, enjoy nature and socialize more easily and confidently, said Stanley, who was left paralyzed after the accident.
"I've been able to open up and just get out and socially be able to get out with friends, able to enjoy the outdoors, get away from traffic," he said.
"It makes a huge difference."
Stanley is one of many mappers across Canada who go out on the Trans Canada Trail and capture their experience. Thanks to these mappers, an additional 25 trail sections have been added in the AccessNow app in February.
Like other mappers, Stanley takes photos and writes reviews on the app about things like whether there are accessible washrooms along the way or accessible parking at the trailheads.
This year, he has written reviews along the Confederation Trail from Stratford to Lake Verde. Last year, he worked on the section starting from Joe Ghiz Park to beyond UPEI.
'Notes left on the trail'
He wasn't surprised to see that the trail is quite accessible, but many of his colleagues at Spinal Cord Injury P.E.I. don't use the trail often because they don't know if it's accessible, Stanley said.
"Most of us are in a position that we don't really deal with surprises all that well. So we don't want to be five kilometres into a hike to discover there's a barrier we can't get past and then have to turn around and come back," he said.
"Having notes left on the trail from somebody who has mobility issues so they know whether it's successful or not just gives us the confidence to get out there."
Besides trail users with disabilities, those who can walk along the trail but need to rest often can benefit from the information Stanley provided, knowing there are "reasonably good amenities along the way" mapped out on the trail such as benches and picnic tables, he said.
"If you have the app, you can see how far ahead it is until there's the next place you can sit down," he said.
But a few places along the Confederation Trail can give users pauses.
Users have to be careful with one or two places on the trail where it crosses the Trans-Canada Highway, Stanley said.
"The Trans-Canada is busy. And if you're not able to move quickly, this could be problematic," he said.
"But the trail itself is fine."
Stanley believes one day P.E.I.'s Trans Canada Trail could be fully mapped. So far, he's been focusing on the areas closest to the city before branching out.
With files from Island Morning