OCEAN CITY — Some of the beaches in Ocean City could become a little more accessible for those with disabilities or even for parents with small children in strollers with the rollout of a new dune crossing system implemented in certain areas.
The town is partnering with the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on a pilot program to provide a firm surface on certain dune crossovers along the beach to allow easier access for those with disabilities and in wheelchairs. The dune crossover project could have other applications as well including families with small children in strollers and even families and individuals hauling chairs, umbrellas and other beach equipment over the dune crossovers often difficult to traverse.
For now, however, the DNR and the town are partnering on two locations for the firm, dune-crossing surface and the intent is to improve access and enjoyment of the beach for handicapped individuals in wheelchairs.
City Engineer Terry McGean this week explained installation of the two test cases is a pilot program limited initially to just two crossovers along the 10-mile stretch of beach.
“We are working with DNR to install two test products for improved beach access at handicap crossovers,” he said. “One product is the Mobi-Mat, which has been installed at 130th Street. The other product is installed at 94th Street.”
“We will evaluate both products over the summer to see how much maintenance they require, how often they get covered with sand and have to be cleaned, for example,” he said. “After the season, we will review the results and decide if one, none or both products are acceptable for installation at nine other handicapped access points.”
McGean cautioned there is no long-term plan to install the access mats at all crossovers in Ocean City because of the cost associated with them.
“The cost for the materials alone per crossover is between $7,000 and $8,000,” he said. “Since we have a total of 204 dune crossovers, it will be cost-prohibitive to install these at every location, which is why if we move forward with these in the future, they will only be placed at designated handicapped crossings.”
There are currently nine handicap-accessible dune crossovers in Ocean City with the appropriate parking and vehicle access. The Ocean City Beach Patrol offers beach-friendly wheelchairs with oversized tires at many locations on a first come, first served basis.