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Donnelly Signs Up For King Of GreystonesJuly 19, 2019
Following the hallelujahs that greeted the news of wheelchair access mats being introduced to the South Beach, their first day on the job has been met by some with more of a “Huh?“…
And those expressing their frustrations at the AccessRec mats were largely parents of children who had never had access to the beach before.
For Julia Carrick – who started the campaign for wheelchair access on the South Beach – the new mats will, she believes, make no real difference to the life of her son, Leo, who has cerebral palsy. “I do believe that the mat will be good for able-bodied folk to move more easily on the beach,” she told the Guide this morning, “with one mother telling me excitedly yesterday that ‘this will be great for gymnastics for my girls‘.
“I’m sure many others in our community will enjoy it, but I honestly do not believe that the mat, as it is, is of any benefit to people with disabilities. I had assumed that access meant that Leo would be able to dip his toes in the water.”
Which will be news to Wicklow County Council, who reportedly made it clear to Julia and the gang that access directly into the sea wouldn’t be possible.
With a press release due from the Municipal District on the negative reaction later today, Greystones’ town engineer Ruairí O’Hanlon told the Guide that, not having been involved in discussions with Julia during the campaign – meeting her only once on the funding and provision of the mats – the perceived gap between expectation and reality came as a surprise to him.
It should be pointed out too that these mats are temporary – a permanent, wooden access boulevard is planned for the South Beach.
Having emailed Julia last night, answering her concerns, Ruairí stated, ‘What has been provided by Wicklow County Council is improved universal access to the beach for wheelchair users, persons with children in buggies or prams, and anyone with mobility issues which would otherwise prevent them from traversing the beach. Access to the sea for wheelchair users was never envisaged as part of the plan as it is simply not feasible.’
The reasons a universal access route to the sea won’t work are…
1. There is quite a long stretch of beach between the high and low tide marks, sometimes depending on the beach sand, this can be up to fifty metres in length.
2. At high tide the depth of water at the low tide mark can be up to four metres depending on the depth of sand on the foreshore.
3. The sand between the high and low tide marks is ever shifting. The course nature of the sand means that it never compacts and so the sand shifts with every tide; even small storms or tidal surges can change the landscape of the beach quite dramatically and we have recorded up to three metres depth of sand either removed or deposited after a single storm event.
It is because of these points that, Ruairí argues, the placement of a structure on the sand within the tidal zone is not feasible, ‘as it would be undermined and washed away – which, apart from being a waste of public money would also be environmentally-unfriendly, due to the amount of plastic that would be washed out to sea‘.
O’Hanlon points out that images online of AccessRec and Mobi Mats highlights the fact that they are rarely used to provide direct access to the sea, instead allowing wheelchair users access across the dry sands to the harder, compact wet sand areas closer to the sea. From there, it’s generally specialised beach chairs that can operate and allow access directly into the sea.
Given that Greystones doesn’t boast that fine compact sand that doesn’t move with the tides limits the proximity for the AccessRec mats to those crashing waves. Also, Ruairí points out, the Greystones Municipal District budget won’t cover the hiring of personnel to roll out these mats each morning and roll them back in the evening, or when the weather turns nasty.
So, we’ll just have to wait for that hardwood boulevard [similar to Bray’s, above]. Until then, let’s just be thankful for what we’ve got…