By Paula Ganzi Licata
Dear Long Island municipalities: Why not make our beaches accessible to all?
My boyfriend, Billy, and I are notorious over-packers when it comes to the beach: two coolers, lots of games, two umbrellas, boogie boards, books, towels and bags. We schlep from car to shore with a chair each strapped to our backs, weighted down with the necessities of fun-in-the-sun. A few years ago we incorporated a beach cart into our summer routine; but with all our stuff, the wheels get weighted down into the sand.
While at the recent Jones Beach Air Show on Memorial Day weekend, we discovered the perfect solution: the sand beach access mat, also called mobility mats. Like a red carpet ushering celebrities from limo to VIP event, the mobility mat guides beachgoers from boardwalk to shore with ease. Instead of dragging the cart through the sand like a disobedient child refusing to leave the playground, we sailed along towards the shore to find our spot in the sand because the cart’s wheels rolled smoothly over the surface of the mat.
We aren’t the only beneficiaries of this portable, inexpensive way to provide easy access.
Parents with young children–and all the paraphernalia that accompanies a family day at the beach–can wheel strollers and pull wagons laden with buckets, sand toys, diaper bags, baby pop-up beach tents and gallons of juice boxes. The ease of the mat can free up a parent’s hand, not to mention saving Mommy and Daddy the physical activity of plodding through the sand, energy better saved for chasing toddlers.
The mat opens up the beach to the elderly, as well, offering a strip of terra firma to those unsure of their footing, who need to rely on walkers and canes.
Perhaps those likely to benefit the most are people in wheelchairs. Instead of spying the shore from the boardwalk and parking lots, they can roll their wheelchairs down the mats and enjoy the surf up close. What a simple innovation to provide so many with accessibility.
Some Long Island communities are already transforming the landscape of their shores with mobility mats. Recently Long Beach approved a plan to install mobility mats at Virginia Avenue, as well as at Edwards, Long Beach and Neptune Boulevard. At Jones Beach, mobility mats are offered at Field 6 and the Central Mall. These non-slip mats, sometimes referred to as mobi-mats, are a low-cost alternative to building a walkway–a quick and easy solution to a pedestrian problem.
I’m hoping the Town of Hempstead plans to install mobility mats at Pt. Lookout Beach.
If wheelchairs on the beach aren’t a commonplace sight on Long Island shores now, they could be. Let’s have the big wheels in power allocate funds for sand beach access mats for all Long Island beaches. Hopefully as the summer gets underway, local governments will approve funding to roll out non-slip mats, allowing everyone to enjoy Long Island’s stellar beaches.