Raymond Cho, the provincial minister of Seniors and Accessibility presented Blind River council with a cheque for $32,500 at its meeting Monday evening.
The money is earmarked for setting up more picnic benches along fully accessible trails in the community which Blind River council has already spearheaded as part of overall improvements around town.
The minister acknowledged the work in his presentation of the community grant to council.
Cho, who served as a councillor in Toronto for several years, said he understood what it means for a local council to receive grants.
“I know what it means to receive a grant and help build your community.”
The grant is designed to make a community more inclusive and accessible to all residents.
“This program is here to serve the needs of the community,” he said. “The town of Blind River is showing the province how to become more accessible. Congratulations for providing this kind of leadership and commitment.”
The picnic tables will be permanently installed and be accessible year-round.
“You are the first minister that has spoken to our council,” Mayor Sally Hagman said. “Speaking as a senior for the town of Blind River and a resident of the town of Blind River we love our accessible trails, and we love our accessible benches, and it just makes growing older that much nicer.”
Blind River has been working on ongoing the accessibility of trails and pathways for some time.
According to Mayor Hagman, some of the accessibility money has also been raised locally. Beach mat fundraising has taken place in the community through the efforts of The Birch Tree’s Carolyn Kingsley and FedNor’s generous funding which allowed the purchase of the new kayak docks on the river.
“The Town received funding specifically for picnic tables (from the province). This project aligned with over nine supporting projects and studies that encourage rest, and a sense of place for residents and tourists alike,” the mayor
The full text of a news release from the Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility follows:
NORTH REGION – The Ontario government is providing $32,500 to the Town of Blind River to support upgrades to local public-use areas that will improve access for older people and/or people with disabilities.
The funding is being made available through the Inclusive Community Grants Program which provides funding to municipalities, Indigenous groups, and community organizations for programs and infrastructure projects that help people with disabilities and seniors stay safe and engaged in their neighbourhoods.
“Ontario’s older residents and people with disabilities deserve to have more inclusive opportunities to stay fit, active, healthy, and socially connected to their community,” said Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. “That is why our government is investing in projects across the province that will build community programming and accessible infrastructure that will help increase the well-being and quality of life for older adults and people with disabilities.”
The Blind River project called 'Assigned Seats Are Not Our Style: Sit Anywhere That Makes You Smile' will enable the town to purchase an accessible kayak launch, beach access mats, and inclusive picnic tables.
The barrier-free, accessible kayak launch will be installed in proximity to handicapped parking spaces and a turnaround area where kayaks and people can be dropped off at the launch dock. Beach access mats will be installed at Peace Park and Lakeside Beach. Approximately 100 meters of mats at Peace Park will accommodate mobility device users, older adults, and families with strollers from the parking lot to the beach.
“Council wishes to thank Minister Cho and The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility for choosing Blind River’s project. This generous funding is allowing Blind River to further promote accessibility in public-use areas of the community,” said Mayor Sally Hagman. “This submission is particularly important to Council as it aligns with Blind River’s Corporate Strategic Plan and Economic Development Strategy and Service Delivery Review. Every single investment counts: Blind River will continue to work to be barrier-free.”
“Investments like this Inclusive Community Grant in Blind River help to make towns all over Ontario more accessible said Sault Ste. Marie MPP Ross Romano. I congratulate the Town of Blind River for its ongoing commitment to creating a barrier-free community.”
“Our government is focused on supporting seniors across the North,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development. “Seniors and people with disabilities in Blind River will now have greater access to inclusive programs, as our government continues to build key infrastructure that supports unique needs while creating stronger communities for Northerners.”
The Ontario government is investing more than $740,000 in 17 Inclusive Community Grants Program projects across the province in 2022-23 that promote innovative technologies that support older adults and persons with disabilities, support infrastructure upgrades to improve accessibility and respond to the unique needs of Indigenous communities, and much more.