Ocean City’s 2020 summer season will feature a couple of new reasons why people seem to faithfully come back to the resort for vacations year after year.
From a beach replenishment program that is continuing to widen beaches along with the resort to longer mobility mats that provide easier travels across the sand, plans are underway to improve the gem of the barrier island.
In Mayor Jay Gillian’s annual State of the City address, delivered during Thursday’s City Council meeting, he spoke about the replenishment project and the beach mats.
“The Army Corps of Engineers in January completed a project to rebuild beaches and dunes at the south end of Ocean City,” Gillian said.
He continued, “The Corps will return in the spring to pump an estimated 1.4 million cubic yards of new sand onto the north end beaches in time for the summer season. This work will help shore up an uninterrupted line of dunes protecting properties in Ocean City.”
Gillian also noted how well the longer mobility mats worked at the 34th Street beach last summer as a model for extending other beach mats in 2020.
“After a successful experiment last summer with extending beach mats to create wheelchair-accessible sitting areas on the beach, we will look to expand the program,” he explained.
Ocean City Public Information Officer Doug Bergen said in an email that the Public Works Department will add new locations, but they will not be determined until after the beach replenishment project in the spring.
The extra-long beach mat at 34th Street is the only one of its kind in Ocean City that extends all the way to the high tide line.
The city has mobility mats at more than 50 beaches, but they are shorter than the one at 34th Street and don’t come as close to the water.
The mat on 34th Street effectively creates a sitting area closer to the ocean for people in wheelchairs.
Fourth Ward Councilman Bob Barr, whose district includes 34th Street, has been one of the city’s leading advocates for creating more access to the beaches
Born with cerebral palsy, Barr uses a wheelchair for his mobility.
In July of 2019, two months into the experiment at 34th Street, Barr told OCNJDaily.com of the mats, “I’ve heard positive feedback from beachgoers, from residents, and from the city administration.”
During an interview Sunday, Barr said he is happy and excited about the plan to extend the mats to other beaches in the resort.
“I think any time we can make our city more accessible it is a good thing. From a disabled person’s standpoint, it is extremely difficult to navigate the beach,” Barr said. “The mayor and council have been very good about making our town as accessible as possible.”
He emphasized that the mat makes time at the beach much more enjoyable.
“You can ride your chair all the way down to the water if you want to,” Barr added.
He said in the next month or so city officials will determine which beaches will get the longer mats for the 2020 season.
Barr’s hope is that one day all of Ocean City’s beaches have them.
“It may even bring more people to the beaches who didn’t come before,” he said.
For a list of beaches with mobility mats visit www.ocnj.us/Handicapped-Accessibility.