By MADDY VITALE
City Council approved a nearly $11 million funding package on Aug. 11 for a series of capital projects that includes expanding the beach mats program.
For the last five years or so, the city has made it a point to install mobility mats at each beach and the goal is to expand the program and put longer mats in at area beaches.
City Business Administrator George Savastano explained in a statement Saturday that beach accessibility for Ocean City residents and visitors has been and continues to be a major priority for the city administration.
“The funding for beach mats was to continue to improve and expand our existing program. People often want longer and more expansive access paths — to make it easier to get to the beach,” Savastano said. “We also want to accommodate them and help the elderly, disabled, and handicapped beach users.”
The bright blue mats are made of hard plastic. They sit on top of the sand to create an easy-to-walk pathway.
The mats have become a summer staple on Ocean City beaches for more than five years.
They provide easier trips over the sand for people in wheelchairs, for the elderly, parents pushing baby carriages and for anyone else who needs to get on the beach safely and easily.
The longer mobility mat that stretches down to the high tide line at the 34th Street beach was installed for the 2019 summer season. It serves as a model for the mats officials would like to have at other beaches in the resort in the future.
Adonna Longo, of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., came down for the weekend to spend time with her parents, Dominic and Joan Venezia.
The Venezias live on 20th Street, but they choose to go to 34th Street beach because of the expansive beach mat.
“They are very agile 85-year-olds,” Longo said Saturday of her parents. “They aren’t in wheelchairs. My parents just need a little help, and the longer mats make it easier for them to get onto the beach.”
Longo and three of her friends, also down for the weekend, toted beach chairs, bags and other items for the hours they planned to spend on the 34th Street beach.
“The longer mats help us. They help moms and dads with strollers, too,” Longo noted. “I know it is a big deal for my parents. They wouldn’t go to the beach if it wasn’t for the mat.”
Longo added that her parents would like to see the longer mat at the beach near their home on 20th Street.
While city officials have spoken about the goal of putting in the more expansive mats at other beaches in the resort, there are no specifics as to where or when.
Jeff Daisher pushed his mother-in-law, Patricia Rossbauer, both of West Grove Pa., in her beach mobility wheelchair.
The family was down enjoying their vacation home in Ocean City and decided to head down to the beach.
He remarked about how the long mat offers an easier way to get onto the beach with his family.
At first, the mats were at only some beaches. By last summer, they were at every beach entrance.
There are also ADA-accessible mats stretching onto the beaches at Surf Road, Waverly Beach, off E. Atlantic Boulevard, Stenton Place, 14th Street and 58th Street. These pathways lead to sitting areas where people in wheelchairs can enjoy the beach.
Accessibility measures also include ramps over the Boardwalk or bulkhead, hard-packed dune crossovers and plastic beach mats across portions of soft sand.
For more information about beach accessibility visit https://www.ocnj.us/Handicapped-Accessibility.