Monday, April 25, 2011

Fenwick, Island, Del., works toward more accessible beaches

From Delmarva News:

FENWICK ISLAND, Del. -- Officials have approved the installation of Mobi Mats along a few of the town's beach access dunes.

The mats are portable and removable rollout access pathways that can be used for pedestrians, wheelchair users and vehicles. They are made of rigid, corrugated polyester fabric spread over the dunes to assist in crossing.

The town received approval from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's Division of Parks and Recreation for the purchase of the Mobi Mats using a $20,000 state grant.

The product is available in 50-foot and 33-foot lengths and cost about $3,950 and $3,607, respectively. For $40,000 -- which includes a $20,000 contribution from the town -- the municipality can purchase about 500 feet of the mats.

"I think going with the grant, it gives us the possibilities of doing different scenarios at different streets," said Councilman William Weistling.

While no decision has been made as to which streets will have the mats installed, beachgoers could see them in June, although the council may choose to wait until after the beach replenishment project is complete, said Town Manager Win Abbott.

Mayor Audrey Serio said the towns with Mobi Mats have been very satisfied. Fenwick joins South Bethany, Cape Henlopen State Park and Rehoboth and Bethany beaches in using the mats.

"It makes it easier to traverse over the sandy dunes," she said. "They have proven they do work."

Councilman Todd Smallwood suggested only buying one mat to test for the summer at one of the town's more popular beach streets -- such as Atlantic, Dagsboro or Farmington -- to see how it holds up.

"I believe they are effective, but not having them in place, I'd really like to see how they would really do over an entire summer," he said. "If we had a hurricane coming, we'd probably have to get those off the dunes; I'm not sure what kind of hassle that will be."

The mats are secured in the sand by 50-foot poles and are relatively maintenance free, according to the company's website.

Abbott said the Fenwick Island Beach Patrol and the town's Public Works Department will take care of the upkeep, which involves sweeping them regularly and power washing them at the end of the season.

"They've been proven by the military," said Councilman Gardner Bunting. "If they can drive tanks over them and land helicopters on them, I don't think we can destroy them."

Abbott said realty transfer taxes would cover the town's cost for the mats.

"Simply purchasing these is not going to add to your personal tax bill over the coming years," Abbott said.