As a paralympic athlete, Doug Blessin has no problem casting his line quite a distance into the Fraser River in search of hungry fish. He does, however, face a unique challenge that other bar anglers don’t.
“Because of my upper body strength, I can cast farther than most people,” notes Blessin, who uses a wheelchair. “But a lot of fishing on the Fraser is catch-and-release. I can’t be tossing a fish 100 metres back into the water. I need to be able to return the fish properly and gently.”
Soon, Blessin – and other anglers with reduced mobility – will be able to access a unique fishing opportunity at Edgewater Bar in Derby Reach Regional Park in Langley. With support from Metro Vancouver, Port Metro Vancouver, local businesses and volunteers, a universally accessible bar fishing ramp has been constructed – the first in the region.
Using concrete barriers and gravel, crews are creating a graduated ramp from the river bank, over riprap (placed rock protection) to a gravel platform at the river’s edge. The project – first proposed by members of the Derby Reach Brae Island Park Association – has moved forward quickly, thanks to supplies, materials and services donated by local companies, in conjunction with the Pacific Parklands Foundation.
“We’re delighted that staff, residents and businesses have pulled together to make this important project a reality,” said Heather Deal, Chair of the Metro Vancouver Environment and Parks Committee. “It’s truly a reflection of a community that cares and ensures all members of the public have access to this popular Fraser River fishing spot.”
The accessible fishing ramp is the latest addition to facilities in the park that make it easier for those using wheelchairs to experience the outdoors. Derby Reach Regional Park already boasts accessible washrooms, picnic shelters, trails, campsites and an off-leash dog area.
“It’s going to be used by a lot of people,” noted Jeremy Smith, president of the Derby Reach Brae Island Park Association. “And it showed me what can be done through cooperation and goodwill.”
Blessin, who has been involved in developing the ramp design, is looking forward to the constructed ramp. “I cannot wait to try it out with my twin boys and introduce them to fishing, conservation and the great outdoors.”
Visit www.metrovancouver.org to learn more about regional parks.