Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Zealand nature site becomes wheelchair accessible

From the Gisborne Herald in New Zealand:

The first part of a major upgrade at Gray's Bush has been completed, and wheelchair users have already put it to the test and given it the thumbs-up.

The first part of the Gray's Bush makeover has involved putting down a special surface to allow wheelchair users to get in among the trees and enjoy the bush surroundings.

One of the loop tracks starting at the entrance to the bush reserve - 10 minutes from Gisborne on Back Ormond Road - has a new, firm surface created by first laying a protective honeycomb matting over the original soil surface, to protect the surface and sub-surface network of tree roots.

A special mix of limestone, gravel and cement has been laid over the matting to give the firmness required for wheelchairs.

The path structure "floats" over the floor of the reserve so no vegetation is damaged by visitors using the track.

Conservation officer Jamie Quirk says it looks a bit stark at the moment, but within a year the path will have weathered and blended into its surroundings as leaf matter and dirt settle on its edges and surface.

"What is pleasing is we've already had good feedback from several wheelchair users who have visited Gray's Bush and gone for a spin on the track."They're rapt and say it's great to be able to get into the reserve and enjoy nature."

Mr Quirk says one of the aims is to allow vegetation to hang over the track and give the wheelchair visitors the chance to experience the touch and feel of the bush plants.