CRD's Powerful Partnerships Construct User-Friendly Trails

Marnie Essery, chair of the Intermunicipal Advisory Committee on Disability Issues (IACDI), was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was three-years old. The arthritis limits Marnie’s mobility but it hasn’t impacted her passion for the outdoors. However, Marnie found it extremely difficult to explore the natural terrain of many parks in the Capital Regional District (CRD).

“I’ve seen a lot of parking lots, but I actually didn’t do a lot of activity. It became very frustrating…and I began to meet other people that said ‘You know what, we’re seeing the same view as you, and we’d like to have more concrete information about where we can go because we don’t want to go to the same park every week.’” ~ Marnie Essery

Marnie began to seek answers, and started asking key people to help make the changes that were needed to create accessible and inclusive trails for people with mobility issues. Her persistence helped to bring together partners from West Shore Parks and Recreation and CRD Regional Parks. What started as a simple conversation over a cup of coffee developed into an incredible initiative to improve the accessibility of parks and trails throughout numerous municipalities.


Key Partners

  • Intermunicipal Advisory Committee on Disability Issues (IACDI)
  • Capital Regional District (CRD) Regional Parks
  • West Shore Parks and Recreation Society
  • Recreation Integration Victoria (RIV)
  • Power to Be
  • City of Colwood
  • City of Langford
  • District of Highlands
  • District of Metchosin
  • Town of View Royal
  • Overview of the Process

Individually partners were already working on projects to improve trails and accessibility; the CRD received an Age-Friendly Grant from UBCM to create an age-friendly brochure, West-Shore Parks and Recreation had set aside funding to map trails, and IACDI was advocating for trail improvements. These projects helped to set supportive local conditions for the development of Guide to User-Friendly Trails.

IACDI, CRD Regional Parks, and West Shore Parks and Recreation Society seized the opportunity to align their projects, pool resources, and build trust to collectively work on a powerful initiative.

With these key partners working together, they were able to generate wider support from the Recreation Integration Victoria (RIV), Power to Be, and the municipalities of Colwood, Langford, Highlands, Metchosin, and View Royal.

The team worked together to complete 13 accessibility audits, implement a survey that generated 675 responses, and conduct stakeholder engagement activities. The results from the research showed that there was strong interest throughout Greater Victoria for more user-friendly trails and accessible outdoor environments, thus reinforcing the value and need for this project.

With time, research and people power, the partners developed criteria and an assessment process to ensure that the parks and trails were user-friendly. Trail-profiles were then created by selecting specific trails, mapping them out, and using GPS technology to indicate the distance, elevation, grades, and to determine the amenities available (i.e., washrooms, benches, picnic tables). Numerous trail improvements have been made including enhanced trail conditions, and design of consistent user-friendly trail signage.


Adopted from: User-Friendly Trails Initiative Final Report – January 2014


As a final product, a 48-page full colour Guide to User-Friendly Trails was produced to assist people with different levels of mobility determine which parks are suitable for them to visit. The partners also produced A Toolkit: 10 Steps to User-Friendly Trails, which is a document that can be used by other communities to implement similar actions. (To provide feedback on the User Friendly Trails Guide, please contact

The response from the community was overwhelming; none of the partners predicted such wide uptake and so much praise from the general public. Since the release of the guide, the working group has received incredibly positive feedback from numerous people including mothers with strollers, people with quadriplegia, and seniors with limited mobility.

While the working group was able to accomplish so much through the User-Friendly Trail initiative, each person attributed the project’s success to the incredible partnership. Everyone had an area of specialization that contributed to the collective vision, and the impact of what they produced is unquestionable.

“There is power in partnerships. We can do so much more together than we can apart.” ~ Marnie Essery


Outcomes and Impacts

  • There has been extraordinary uptake of the guides; nearly 40,000 copies have been printed and distributed within 18 months of creating the Guide.
  • Received the West Shore Chamber of Commerce Healthy Communities Award.
  • Received an honourable mention for UBCM’s Community Excellence Award in the category of Leadership & Innovation, Accessibility & Inclusions.

“I would like to see a challenge or an encouragement for municipalities to take up the challenge to take on this type of project by starting where they are.” ~ Bobbi Neal


Additional Resources

User-Friendly Trails Initiative Guide

User-Friendly Trails Initiative Final Report

User-Friendly Media Release

User-Friendly Toolkit


For more information, please contact

Karen Preston, Coordinator of Partnership Development
Capital Regional District, Parks & Environmental Service
T: 250-360-3330

Marnie Essery, Chair
Intermunicipal Advisory Committee on Disability Issues
T: 250-474-5939

Bobbi Neal, Community Development Coordinator
West Shore Parks & Recreation
T: 250-474-8665


Photo credit: William Ng

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