The CAFRA permit covers public access points throughout the city, including beach pathways.

By Donald Wittkowski

Sea Isle City is giving its beachgoers the red-carpet treatment. Well, sort of.

Actually, it will be distinctive blue mats that will make beachgoers feel so special this summer in the vacation resort.

The city is spending $100,000 to buy more “Mobi-Mats” to make it easier for everyone – especially senior citizens or people with disabilities – to enjoy the beaches without having to trudge all the way through the thick, powdery sand.

“We have a lot of elderly people and some with handicaps who enjoy the beach. This just makes it easier for them to get onto the beach,” City Council President Mary Tighe said of the mats.

Tighe noted that her 76-year-old mother, Marie Tighe, has been among the local senior citizens who want better beach access, including more Mobi-Mats.

The non-slip mobility mats look like bright blue carpet strips from a distance. They lie on top of the sand, providing an easier transition from the gravel pathways over the dunes to the beaches.

The distinctive blue mats are being placed at new locations, like this one at 46th Street.

Before, the mats were used at six handicap-accessible beaches along Sea Isle’s 4.5-mile shoreline from First to 94th streets. Now, they are being placed at intervals of about every three blocks between 29th and 91st streets. The locations are listed at the end of this story.

The mats do not extend the entire width across the beach. At the handicap-accessible beaches, for instance, they average about 70 feet long.

After listening to complaints from local residents about the difficulties of walking through the deep beach sand, City Council and Mayor Leonard Desiderio’s administration agreed to buy more of the handicap-accessible Mobi-Mats this year.

A $4.4 million bond ordinance that will finance an array of construction projects and capital improvements throughout the city in 2018 includes about $105,000 in funding for the new mats as well as equipment to keep them clean of sand, Tighe said. Council is expected to introduce the ordinance when it meets on Tuesday.

The city’s proposed five-year capital plan includes an additional $100,000 to buy even more Mobi-Mats in 2021. Ultimately, the goal is for the city to have the mats on every beach, although that will take some time, Tighe said.

Sea Isle’s beaches became wider when they were replenished with nearly 3 million cubic yards of new sand in 2015 and 2016.

A $40 million beach replenishment project in 2015 and 2016 beautified Sea Isle’s shoreline with nearly 3 million cubic yards of pristine new sand. However, the wider beaches are harder to walk on, especially for senior citizens or disabled people who struggle to navigate through the sand.

Ever since the replenishment project was completed, Sea Isle has concentrated on maintaining the gravel pathways that cross over the dunes to provide easy access to the beaches. But local residents have been calling for the city to install more Mobi-Mats to make their treks across the beach even easier.

“We anticipate they will be put to good use,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said of the new mats. “They help people cross the sand, especially since our beaches are so wide. This is something the city responded to.”

Sea Isle already had Mobi-Mats on its handicap-accessible beaches at 32nd Street, 40th Street, John F. Kennedy Boulevard, 44th Street, 63rd Street and 85th Street. The mats will remain on those beaches.

The new locations for the beach mats include: 29th Street, 35th Street, 38th Street, 46th Street, 49th Street, 52nd Street, 55th Street, 58th Street, 61st Street, 66th Street, 70th Street, 73rd Street, 76th Street, 79th Street, 82nd Street, 88th Street and 91st Street.