Port Moody’s Mossom Creek Hatchery was honoured Tuesday for its commitment toward greater accessibility.
The hatchery is the first in the country to receive a gold certification from the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF), receiving a score of 84 out of 100.
A dedication plaque was unveiled at the hatchery by Rick Hansen and Mayor Meghan Lahti.
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Lahti said it’s a priority for council to address concerns related to accessibility, disability and inclusion within the community.
“This will have a transformative impact on all aspects of our lives here in Port Moody,” Lahti said. “I know that many other organizations will be looking to you and they’ll be asking you for advice.”
The original Mossom Creek Hatchery was destroyed in a fire in 2013.
It was rebuilt with more accessibility features, however, its volunteers wanted to go beyond just mobility inclusivity, striving to service additional visual, hearing and physical challenges.
More than $30,000 was poured into upgrades, including improvements to wayfinding signage, ramps to viewing platforms, a listening device for the education centre, a strobe lighting alarm system and visual identification of walkways and stairs.
“There’s so many examples here,” said Uli Egger, RHF’s certification specialist. “You’ve done a remarkable job, and I thank you so much.”
Hansen said some of his earliest memories were fishing and being in nature, and didn’t realize the amount of barriers that existed until he suffered his spinal injury.
In 1973, a vehicle crash left Hansen paralyzed from the waist down. He became a Paralympic champion in 1980, and later a disability activist and Canadian icon from his Man in Motion Tour in 1985.
“I had to customize solutions and get back to the world that I loved, to be the person who I was, someone who loved the outdoors,” Hansen said. “That experience for me was really profound.
“People used to think the environment, nature, and accessibility were separate things, but what I’ve come to realize is that they are one and the same.”
More than 20 percent of B.C. residents have disabilities, Hansen said, and by making facilities more inclusive, more people can contribute and make a difference.
“When I started the tour, that was my crazy dream, but the world was big and disconnected,” Hansen said. “What’s happening here at Mossom Creek can actually also change the world … I’ve never been more optimistic in my entire life.”
Mike Meneer of Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) drew a parallel comparison between the barriers faced by struggling salmon populations and people with disabilities.
He said polling has shown that 86 percent of B.C. residents rank restoring salmon populations as their greatest environmental priority.
Allowing more people to visit hatcheries, which double as education centres, will support those efforts, Meneer said, adding the PSF is going to encourage other hatcheries to follow Port Moody’s lead.
“Today we mark the removal of barriers, because today, with this leading stewardship community, you’re allowing everybody to participate,” Meneer said.