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Accessibility issues for Stirling and District Lions Club

Stirling and District Lions Club is having trouble getting an elevator or lift for its disabled visitors. “They’re limited to what’s available at street level. They’re not included,” renovation and accessibility committee chair Lin Clarke said. Photo by Angus Argyle, QNet News

By Justin Medve [1]

STIRLING – Stirling and District Lions Club [2] may have until 2025 to comply with Ontario’s latest accessibility laws [3], but renovation and accessibility committee chair Lin Clarke says it doesn’t have any time to waste.

Clarke explained that the club, located above Stirling’s hockey arena, has lost rental revenue and longtime visitors with disabilities because it hasn’t been able to obtain the accessibility report it needs before an elevator or chairlift can be installed.

“There are people who can’t have weddings, anniversaries and birthdays because there’s elderly parents and friends in their families that cannot do the stairs,” she said.

The club also had to cancel its weekly bingo night, which Clarke said was once highly attended.

“Every Monday they came. It’s their social thing. They’re devastated,” she said.

Below the Lions Club is a different story, however. Stirling won Kraft’s Hockeyville [4] contest in 2012 and was awarded $100,000 to put toward upgrades to its rink, change rooms and accessibility features.

Clarke said that the blueprints for those plans featured an elevator for the Lions Club and curling rink (also under the same roof), but it never came to fruition.

“It’s unfair that we are paying taxes for people that can skate, people that can play hockey and the figure skating club, but we can’t include the people that are another part of this community,” she said.

Stirling-Rawdon councillors review agendas before their meeting this past Monday. From left to right: Dean Graff, Bob Mullin, Mayor Rodney Cooney, Grant Hagerman and Jeremy Solmes. Photo by Justin Medve, QNet News

In turn, Clarke gathered a petition of 300 signatures and wrote a letter to Stirling-Rawdon council [5] on Jan. 18 asking for the needed assessment of the building.

The councillors reviewed the letter at their meeting Monday. Although they said they support the idea, they decided that the letter wasn’t clearly written and that it didn’t follow procedure. Council suggested that a revised copy be sent to them by the arena’s board, as the building is municipally owned with the Lions Club simply paying rent for the upstairs space.

“I agree to the fact that there’s a lot of functions that they cannot have because they’re not accessible, but I don’t think that it’s up to the Lions Club and the building inspector,” said Coun. Dave Graff, who added that service clubs are important to the area.

Coun. Bob Mullin said he believes the board of the curling club should also be involved.

Mayor Rodney Cooney explained that accessibility assessments are extensive and that Stirling’s building inspector isn’t comfortable doing one for the Lions Club himself.

“Some structures won’t physically allow you to do it without major, major renovations,” Cooney told QNet News after the meeting.

Cooney added that elevators are expensive to maintain.

Clarke’s letter said that she had gathered the support of Quinte West’s accessibility advisory committee [6], which said it would lend a hand with any grey areas with the assessment.

Once the assessment is complete, the Lions Club plans to use the help of council to apply for federal and provincial grants. With widened washrooms and a revamp of kitchen and meeting areas also factored in, Clarke estimates the cost would be between $250,000 and $300,000.

The Lions Club [7] is an international non-profit charity. Stirling’s division has operated from the arena for just over 30 years. The club has raised money for toy drives, food insecurity, sports teams and, once, toward a mobility scooter for a local woman who could not afford it.

“Everything that we bring in with the exception of our expenses, we give back to the community,” Clarke said. “In 2025, I’ll be 81. I’m not going to worry about it. But I’d like to see it done now, for the people that are here.”