The most common concern in the Town of Marion has been the ability of senior citizens to age in place. In the past few years, the subject has been referenced by almost every municipal government board and committee in its public meetings.
On June 30, the Recreation Department took what might seem a small but significant step toward making Marion more livable by installing accessible mats at Silvershell Beach.
“It’s something that had been in the plans for a while,” said Acting Recreation Director Scott Tavares, who has been on the job since March when Jody Dickerson was reassigned to the Department of Public Works.
According to Donna Hemphill, administrative assistant to multiple Town of Marion departments, and member of multiple event committees, beach mats that had been delivered a couple of years ago arrived with damage. Then the coronavirus pandemic shut down 2020 recreation programs and the issue went onto the backburner until this year.
Renewing the effort to install the accessible beach mats was welcome news after comments had reached Tavares noting that least one gentleman this year has struggled getting down to the water.
“There was a desire for it in the community,” said Tavares, explaining how the specially designed beach mat makes it far more comfortable for elderly and physically disabled beach visitors to move over the softer part of the sand. At high tide, said Hemphill, the water just about reaches the end of the mat.
The accessible beach mats were the result of a private donation to the Friends of Marion Recreation, a private group that acts as a booster club of sorts for the department.
“If we’re in need of certain items, we write to them and tell them what we’re seeking…. This one is a great opportunity for them,” said Tavares, who hopes at some point this year that the Recreation Department can take the next step and make available an accessible all-terrain wheelchair.
The collapsible wheelchair would come equipped with oversized sand tires and be designed to float. With a storage container at Silvershell, Tavares envisions lifeguards trotting the chair out as needed.
“The first thing was to get this mat down,” he said, acknowledging the overall work in progress. “We have the handicap parking spots…. [The mat] was our first thing that I really wanted to get done. The next thing would be to get some type of wheelchair accessibility…. That way someone with a [disability] can enjoy the beach.”
By Mick Colageo