From left; Chelsea, Carly, Haylie, Courtney, Janelle, Angela and Lauren, are on their annual camping trip at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. - Submitted photo

Wheelchair accessibility setting Island’s Rathtrevor Beach park apart

Friends enjoy special annual camping trip at Parksville’s popular provincial park

A group of longtime friends are once again escaping the daily routine to retreat to nature at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park for their annual camping trip.

The group of seven women (Haylie, Carly, Angela, Courtney, Chelsea, Janelle and Lauren) from around Vancouver Island and the Mainland, have been meeting annually, typically in June, for the past four years to catch up by the beach. Six of the seven women are in wheelchairs and say Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park in Parksville is “one of the best parks” to get around.

“It’s nice because it’s flat. It’s so good,” said Angela Plasteras, who’s from Lantzville. “The washrooms are amazing. The less barriers the better.”

The friendships among the group vary, with some women having met when they were very young and some later in life, through various activities like horseback riding or day camps.

Although they don’t get to see each other on a regular basis as much as they may like, the women say it’s important to get together for the annual camping trip to keep the friendships strong.

“[Camping] strengthens our friendships because it’s an annual thing,” Plasteras said.

Courtney, from North Vancouver, agreed saying the trip is great for bonding.

“I don’t see everybody day-to-day,” she said.

During their week-long trip, the women do all the expected camping activities like watching the sunset at the beach, playing games, talking (a lot) and having cookouts.

Each camper is accompanied by a caregiver or parent, who enjoy the trip as well.

Heather Campbell, caregiver, said packing and planning for the annual trip is the hard part, but practice helps “fine tune” the methods each year.

Campbell said they love coming to Rathtrevor because of its accessibility.

“It’s all flat, well-maintained and accessible, washroom and shower,” she said. “They’ve done an amazing job… it’s all paved, so it’s easy to get around.”

Plasteras agreed.

“I love the beach access and the trail… the trail is totally accessible,” she said.

Having the opportunity to do things so easily, Plasteras said, is special. She said Rathtrevor allows people with physical challenges to realize they too can camp, and easily.

“We couldn’t do it without the people we have around us — our caregivers, our parents,” she said.

According to the BC Parks website, Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park offers paved roads for easy access.

It states campsites, shower stalls, beach access and may walking trails and parking stalls in the day-use areas are all wheelchair accessible.

“People from all over the world come to British Columbia to experience the spectacular natural beauty of B.C.’s parks. People living with disabilities should be able to enjoy outdoor activities with no barriers,” according to BC Parks.

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