Once again, beach weather is upon us, for some of us, that is. Many of us who are elderly and/or handicapped or both have been complaining on deaf ears that we have zero access to the ocean. Beach dunes have added the burden of climbing to access the tide line. Climbing up a hill is athleticism I no longer possess. But, climbing down is even more impossible. When phoning our local politicians about beach access for quite a few of our local population, I am told there is handicapped access. All I need to do is to walk three blocks to get to a ramp in order to utilize it. My comment is “if I could walk three blocks, I could gain access to the ocean front on my own block.”
There was a time for years pre-dune when access to the oceanfront was straight on a plane level with the street. Sandy, our hundred-year storm, took care of handicapped residents as future users of the beach forever. Currently, the Army Corps of Engineers is paving what’s left of our beach with no assurance that this will be effective were another Sandy to befall us. Our federal government shoved this beach plan down our throats to show us they could do something. But is their concept of something worth the effort? Beaches in Florida are restored annually after hurricane season to replace the sand blown away or to the back of the beaches. In the 1970s-2000s, our beaches were maintained twice a year, the sand that collected at the sea walls being leveled down to the tide line with a cooperative effort by Parks and Sanitation using front end loaders with drivers guided by bamboo poles with markers to sculpt our beaches magnificently. Meanwhile anyone who could walk on a flat surface could use our beaches once beach maintenance was complete. No more!
So it is with a sigh that I point out how great living here used to be, especially for aging swimmers. Our politicians and Parks Department rejected our handicapped entreaties hoping their silence would exhaust us and eventually shut us up. I live here, pay taxes here, vote here and know depriving the elderly of beach access is untenable, unfair and probably illegal. To our politicians and Parkies: you think you won by excluding not only our handicapped beach access but also disregarding our legitimate complaints by waiting us out. I haven’t been swimming in the ocean since the berms were installed. It doesn’t look like I will ever have another opportunity. I’m guessing this doesn’t matter to you.
Here’s a suggestion that might resolve the problem. Why not do whatever has to be done to make the beach known as Bay One an all handicapped beach with handicapped on premises parking? Golf cars could be used to shuttle needy users to and from the beach. It seems so simple. How about finally paying attention to a problem ostensibly created under the guise of making our beaches safer? Politicians, Parks and Army Corps: You’ve taken what used to be our summer swimming haven and turned it into impossible access without even a thought of how difficult perambulation is for the handicapped; and, without offering so much as an offer of an alternative. It is clear that your message to the handicapped is “we couldn’t care less.” This discouraging deprivation has been ongoing for too many years. Your three-block walk ‘solution’ is no solution at all. It’s time to strategize an effective plan. Handicapped residents deserve beach and ocean access. As for the time being and all the time you may have reveled in your success at shunning us and keeping us at bay, shame on you!