Brian George, an accessibility advocate who lives with a disability, has been able to do a lot over the years — triathlons, the Bluenose Marathon and skating at the Oval, to name a few.
But never ziplining — until now.
OnTree Park, located in Windsor, N.S., right next to Ski Martock, has introduced a brand new, fully accessible high rope course in an effort to make sure nobody is left behind.
The owners of the park invited George to be one of the first wheelchair users to give it a go.
George says it was an experience like no other.
“It’s an honour to be the first wheelchair user to really try it out,” said George, shortly after going through the route twice.
“The more things that open up like this for people living with disabilities, the better the world will be for everybody.”
OnTree has been one of the popular adventure parks in the province over the past decade. With 18 high rope courses and over 50 ziplines covering more than 100 acres, it provides fun and adventure for those of all ages, while also posing a physical challenge.
But ziplining clearly has its limitations, so that’s why Juergen Weigelt, the owner of OnTree, set out to make a route that wheelchair users can enjoy as well.
“I started to build OnTree 11 years ago and when I started, it was always my goal at a certain time, I want to build a wheelchair-accessible route,” Weigelt said.
“We have them in Europe, there are a few, but I said when I had the time and the pace and the design, then I will start to build one.”
That extra time came during the latest lockdown, as OnTree had to delay its opening by a few extra weeks.
Weigelt says creating the fully accessible ziplining route was no easy feat.
“The platforms, for example, are triple the normal size. The ramps are completely different to build. You have to figure out how wide is a wheelchair, what can a person in a wheelchair do, how stable it has to be, how you can connect them on the end to the zipline,” Weigelt said. “And you also have to make it interesting for them.”
And it certainly is interesting, to say the least. There are several challenges along the route, including speedbumps, steep ramps and even a rope pulling section.
The route ends with a zipline to the bottom, which was George’s favourite part.
“It’s kind of icing on the cake,” he said. “It really makes the whole thing worth it.”
George says that safety was a top priority throughout his experience and that at no time did he feel in any danger.
“The crew here really seem to know what they’re doing,” George said. “The safety was fantastic. They really seem to plan ahead with all this.”
Weigelt credits the hard work of his family and staff for allowing them to complete the project before the summer season.
“It makes us proud because it’s a team effort. Without my team, without my wife, this is not possible,” he said, holding back tears.
“We moved to Canada, we wanted to live our dream, make our dream come true, and this is our dream.”