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New access to Sumner beach for people with wheels

7 January 2008

A portable rollout mat recently installed on the foreshore at Sumner will give improved wheelchair, pushchair and pedestrian access to the hard sand at the high tide line.

The mat stretches from the Esplanade near Cave Rock across the soft sand to the sea ands links the current wheelchair standard beach ramp with the beach. It is put down each day and will be used during the summer months.

Transport and Greenspace Manager Michael Aitken says the new mat has been extremely popular since it was first put down.

"It has been specially designed to an international standard for use on beaches and other places to give the disabled, people pushing buggies and pedestrians the same access to recreational areas as everyone else.

‘’We have been delighted with the positive responses from the public and it is not only wheelchair users who have welcomed the chance to enjoy the beach. Parents appreciate being able to get pushchairs across difficult soft sand and others just like not getting their feet burnt on the hot sand.’’

Installation of the mat is part of the Council’s approved Accessibility Policy which assesses all parks and recreational areas to ensure their accessibility for the disabled, says Mr Aitken.

"Walking along the beach is a popular activity and this new mat lets everyone enjoy the experience,’’ he says. ‘’While the mat will mostly be in place at Sumner, the great thing is as it is so portable, it can be used for any special events on the other areas of the beach. Visually, it also blends in much better than a solid concrete ramp.’’

Currently, rangers put the mat out each day, but Mr Aitken says there is a great opportunity for a local group wanting to fundraise to undertake the daily installation and removal during the summer.

Anyone who is interested should contact the head ranger Rodney Chambers at the Council, says Mr Aitken.

Zefanja Potgieter who is in a wheelchair says he is delighted with the new access. He said he had been going to Sumner beach now for 12 summers and it is the first time he has been able to get down to the water's edge and go along on the wet sand.

"It has completely changed the whole experience,’’ he says.

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