NORTH WILDWOOD — New walkways, ramps and dune crossovers will make the city’s beaches more accessible to visitors with physical disabilities this summer.
Upgrades to improve access to the beach and Boardwalk have been in the works for several years, and the project now under way will see the addition of new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant walkways made of composite materials that will lead from under the Boardwalk to the beach.
“We are pretty proud of what we have been able to do for disabled visitors,” City Council President Patrick Rosenello said.
Up and down the coast, shore communities have a variety of features in place designed to help handicapped visitors.
Atlantic City, for instance, offers surf chairs — large chairs with inflatable tires — that allow users to access the beach and sit in the water, Beach Patrol Chief Rod Aluise said.
Aluise said 14 ADA-compliant ramps are also available.
Sea Isle City uses rubber mats to help those in wheelchairs get down to the beach, in addition to offering surf chairs, Mayor Len Desiderio said.
“It is very important that all are able to enjoy our beaches,” Desiderio said, noting that all three entrances to the city include signs that specifically welcome visitors with special needs related to hearing, vision and mobility.
North Wildwood also offers the surf chairs, Rosenello said.
“We have always taken making our beaches accessible very seriously,” he said.
The state Department of Environmental Protection does not have any official guidelines regarding ADA accessibility at beaches, “although we do strongly encourage all municipalities that they should have it when formulating their Municipal Public Access Plans. Ultimately, it’s up to the municipality to apply common-sense principles to public access of shorelines and tidal waters, and that should include ADA accessibility,” DEP Press Officer Bob Considine said.
The state Department of Community Affairs distributed $1.6 million in Small Cities grants for ADA-related projects last year, spokeswoman Tammori Petty said.
On Tuesday, North Wildwood Public Works crews removed the old wooden walkway that runs parallel to the Boardwalk at 16th Avenue, while farther down, workers from Feriozzi Concrete of Atlantic City installed new walkways at 23rd Avenue.
“We are upgrading our beach ADA access, so our beach and Boardwalk are the most accessible,” Rosenello said Tuesday.
The improvements run the length of the city’s portion of the island’s Boardwalk.
At 23rd Avenue, new concrete has been installed that leads to the walkway made of composite materials, a more durable surface than the wooden walkways previously used there.
Visitors can travel under the Boardwalk and down the walkways to the beach and, at certain access points, across the dunes.
Rosenello said the work being done is the completion of a long-term project in which dune access points were lined up with Boardwalk entrances.
The city received a $400,000 Small Cities grant from the Department of Community Affairs to complete the project. The total cost of the project, which stretches over five years, is more than $1 million.
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