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Former Olympian Working To Make Baxter Conservation Area Accessible To All

Accessibility and conservation advocates are teaming up to transform Baxter Conservation Area into the most accessible nature destination in Eastern Ontario.

The Nature For All committee is working to upgrade Baxter’s bridges, boardwalks, trails and facilities to the gold standard of accessibility to make the park as inclusive as possible to all ages and abilities.

Mike Nemesvary is the founder of Nature For All, and as a quadriplegic, he believes everyone should be able to enjoy the benefits of going outdoors, regardless of circumstances. 

“We want to make Baxter a showcase for all Eastern Ontario, if not Canada,” he said. With the right planning and the right infrastructure in place, that’s what it can become within the next five years.”

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Nemesvary, a former competitive freestyle skier, has been visiting Baxter in his power wheelchair for nearly 20 years, after he was paralyzed in a training accident.

Nature For All is now seeking funding partners and donations for Phase 1, which requires $750,000 to build a brand new, fully accessible bridge across Baxter’s marshlands along with several education platforms overlooking the water.

The current marshland bridge reached the end of its life cycle and was closed as a safety precaution in 2019. 

Meanwhile, the new bridge will be wide enough for two people in wheelchairs to pass safely and easily.

Nemesvary says it’s his wish to see Baxter become a model of accessibility for other conservation areas.

“Often nature is denied to people with even much lesser disabilities than my own,” Nemesvary said. “So, we want to make it very safe and appealing so that people of all ages and abilities can enjoy this beautiful asset.” 

To learn more about Nature For All or to make a donation, you can visit the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation’s website. 

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