JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — Making Jacksonville Beach more accessible. It's a request from a Jacksonville father who says his daughter can’t access the beach in her wheelchair
“There’s pretty much no access to the beach in my personal chair. It is very hard, next to impossible," Rachel Murphy said.
There's a 50-foot mat that's supposed to help beach goers get through soft sand easily but most of the time the handicap walkway is full of sand and is not accessible.
The end of the walkover is the closest Murphy can get to the beach in her wheelchair.
“The problem with the access mat is the beach sand moves, the storms, the weather, even people's foot traffic moves,” Jacksonville Beach Rescue Division Chief Rob Emahiser said. “The mat floats on the sand, so they tend to rise up, and they just require occasional maintenance.”
While the city is not required to have ADA walkovers, it's responsible for maintaining beach access locations. Sometimes volunteers come out to help but sometimes weather, and beach traffic make it difficult.
Emahiser says beach accessible wheelchairs are available to use at the lifeguard station but only until 5 p.m.
“More visitors realize that we have these and that they can get on the beach when they haven’t been on the beach in a while,” Emahiser said.
Murphy says the mat is needed for all types of people to walk through soft sand and would especially be helpful for those who visit after hours and don’t have access to the wheelchairs offered by ocean rescue.
“I would like the walkway to be more accessible for more people to be able to use. Even older people who don't walk as well would be nice for them, so it's not just wheelchair users, it's a bunch of people,” Murphy said.
Ocean rescue says they are happy to help keep sand off the mat but are welcoming others to help maintain it.
The city says the 50-foot mat is only at the end of the Beach Boulevard walkover location but has many other ADA walkovers accessible for wheelchairs to get close to the beach at these locations:
- 20th Ave North
- 8th Ave North
- 5th Ave North
- 6th Ave South
- 16th Ave South