Spending time in nature is linked to improvements in mood, mental health and emotional well-being, so it’s crucial that accessibility is incorporated into parks and recreation planning. We take a look at one regional council actively building accessibility into a new project from the start.
In 2019, Be. Lab was contracted by the Greater Wellington Regional Council to review the design plan for the proposed replacement of an old swing bridge across the Hutt River at Kaitoke Regional Park.
When the bridge became no longer fit for purpose and needed replacing, the Greater Wellington Regional Council identified the opportunity to incorporate accessibility into the design of the new bridge. The rangers had been inspired to see what they could do to improve accessibility in the regional parks after attending an accessibility conference in Wellington.
Be. Lab Coach Genevieve McLachlan and the Be. Lab Design Plan team conducted a review of the plan and made recommendations for improvement. In the process Genevieve researched other existing structures and believes an accessible suspension bridge of this scale to be the first of its kind in New Zealand.
The new bridge was officially opened to the public on 4th August 2021. Some of the accessibility recommendations from Be. Lab that were incorporated into the final project include the two-colour contrasted handrails which will accommodate people of all ages and statures and those using wheelchairs, and the levelling and sealing of the carpark entrance and loop track exit, allowing easy access for everyone.
Genevieve McLachlan, Be. Lab Coach and Wellington local, was delighted to attend the opening. Genevieve said “For me, being the first person in a wheelchair to cross was quite emotional. Being able to get into the rain forest on the other side was amazing, as it was previously inaccessible to those who were unable to walk.”
“I’d encourage anyone with access needs, whether you’re a parent with a pram, or use mobility equipment, to explore this amazing park and cross the bridge to the rain forest on the other side”.
Al Cross, General Manager of Environment at GWC says “Improving access to all our services and spaces across the region is important to Greater Wellington.
Working with Be. Lab has been excellent. Be. Lab has provided practical advice that was essential to getting our design right, ensuring it’s safe and easy to use for more visitors than ever.”
We’re excited to see the Council’s effort in making the Kaitoke Regional Park more accessible to the 1 in 4 New Zealanders with access needs.
Genevieve has already road tested the loop track on the other side of the bridge, and work to raise the accessibility standard on the track is set to begin shortly. We look forward to seeing what Greater Wellington achieve in the future.
Speaking about her involvement Genevieve said, “I love my job! I’m helping organisations on their accessibility journey and playing my part in creating places and spaces that everyone can access and enjoy.”
Building a space or place that is accessible to all potential customers and staff, saving money over time, and future-proofing your build for future needs and users just makes good business sense!
We have over 10 years’ experience in the industry, and our accessibility experts can work with you at any stage of your project.
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