WESTPORT – The northern part of the town of Cherry & Webb Beach has calm waters and is a short distance from its adjacent parking lot, according to Disabled Persons Commission member Martin Costa.
From now on, more people will be able to have access to water there. COD purchased 50 feet of movable mats – also called MobiMats – to allow wheelchair accessibility to the shore.
COD taps into funding sources such as parking fines and donations. The organization put the money to good use this summer and brainstormed ways to help people with physical, mental and other disabilities.
This section of Cherry & Webb is locally referred to as “Baby Beach” and is opposite the main Cherry & Webb, which is 400 yards from the public car park. Yet another beach in the city now offers accessibility for people with disabilities, which did not exist ten years ago.
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Knubble Beach, along Beach Avenue, became the first about five years ago.
Beach access area
To save money on the MobiMats, Costa drove his van to New Jersey to save $500 COD on shipping. The total purchase was around $1,900.
“A lot of locals learned to swim here (at Baby Beach) in bygone days, so the beach was once popular,” Costa said recently. “When I saw the condition of the beach, I pointed out to the Commission that we needed MobiMats for people with disabilities (especially in wheelchairs) to access the water. Chris Gonsalves, Head of the Department of highways, met with me for an hour to go over improvements we can make to this beach.”
There are now disabled parking signs and disabled parking spaces closer to the shore.
Gonsalves plans to do more work on the ground to prevent water runoff and the resulting damage. “This stream of rainwater washes away a large gully as one tries to enter Baby Beach, so Chris (Gonsalves) plans to fill in the washed out gully and prevent the runoff that is causing this damage,” added Coast.
The beach committee is also considering adding a handicapped-accessible picnic table.
Accessibility on the trails and at the dock
This beach is one of the few projects on COD’s to-do list.
At a recent meeting, commissioners discussed a meeting with Westport Land Conservation Trust executive director Ross Moran about a disabled-accessible trail in the popular Westport Woods walking area.
“The Commission feels this property is ideal for one of the many marked trails to be adapted to accommodate wheelchairs and other disabled hikers (perhaps a rope for the blind to follow along the trail with information terminals as well in Braille),” Costa said. “This can include pathways using compact material like bluestone or wooden boardwalks.”
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COD also allocated $5,000 to a state project to rehabilitate the dock at the Hix Bridge Landing. COD members say they want people in wheelchairs to be able to access the platform.
“We don’t have a plan yet on what adaptive device we’ll buy, whether it’s a lift-type mechanism or reconfiguring part of the platform where someone in a wheelchair can roll up. ‘to kayaking, canoeing…and transferring easily to the ship,’ says Costa.
At the last COD meeting, they were talking about a number of different projects that they are involved in.
Costa explained to COD members that mental health issues are on the rise and that COD should look for opportunities to help those struggling with mental health issues.
COD, in recent years, has sought opportunities to help the city’s seniors, veterans, and students with special needs in school.
It even helped a resident recently purchase a trained service dog, according to Costa.