86 OUR COUN­TRY

Par­a­lympian and ac­tivist Rick Hansen on his love for Van­cou­ver’s Stan­ley Park

Canadian Geographic - - DEPARTMENT­S -

TThe first time I went to Stan­ley Park was prob­a­bly in 1976, when I had just come down from Wil­liams Lake, B.C., to go to the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia. I’d de­cided to do some train­ing, and one of my friends said, “Let’s go to Stan­ley Park,” and off we went. We wheeled around it, and it was like I had gone to the other side of the moon; it was quite a long jour­ney for me at the time be­cause I’d just come out of the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre and was start­ing to learn about my en­durance and how far I could go. I thought, “Well, if I did that, I could go even far­ther.” When I was an as­pir­ing Par­a­lympian in the late 1970s and 1980s, I lived in a lit­tle apart­ment in Kit­si­lano and was al­ways try­ing to get down to the water, which I’ve al­ways been drawn to. When parts of the sea­wall started to be­come ac­ces­si­ble, Stan­ley Park be­came my train­ing ground be­cause I could go com­pletely around it. Even though the park is in a big city, when you get out on the sea­wall, you feel like you’re a part of the nat­u­ral beauty of the ocean ecosys­tem. When you move around to Si­wash Rock, you re­ally get that sense of the West Coast, with the waves crash­ing in off the rocks. Some­times at high tide and with strong winds, the water can blow up and over the wall and onto the trail, and you have to time it so you can pass be­fore the next wave crashes across. If you’re lucky, you can see a seal or even a killer whale or a hump­back whale. The park is a place that made me re­al­ize that the world is ac­ces­si­ble and in­clu­sive, that I can have a life that’s full, that I don’t need to be cured in or­der to be whole, be in­cluded or be a part of some­thing spe­cial. It’s truly in­spir­ing. —As told to Joanne Pearce

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