By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sometimes, trudging through the deep beach sand at the Jersey Shore can seem like an arduous trek in the Sahara Desert.
However, Sea Isle City is getting ready to install its ever-popular beach mats to make it easier for people to walk across the sand this summer.
The city plans to place the mats at the beach entrances between 23rd Street and 93rd Street by this weekend. Then it will finish up by putting mats from First Street to 20th Street the week after, City Business Administrator George Savastano said during a City Council meeting Tuesday.
Councilwoman Mary Tighe has been a major proponent of the mats in recent years, frequently pointing out that they are particularly helpful for senior citizens and disabled people to have access to the beaches.
On Tuesday, Tighe asked Savastano during the Council meeting, “How are we with our beaches and beach mats?”
Savastano explained that the city was delayed somewhat in putting the mats down because of a series of storms that blew sand over the gravel pathways leading to the beaches.
At the same time it is installing the mats, the city will also clear sand from the pathways and refurbish them to make sure they are in good shape for the summer, he said.
Work on the pathways is considered routine and is part of the city’s installation of the beach mats. There was no serious damage done to the pathways by the storms, Savastano and City Solicitor Paul Baldini told the Council members.
Earlier this year, Council approved a $36,798 contract with a private vendor to buy 20 new mats. Sea Isle will have the mats at beach entrances the entire length of the island.
The plastic mats lie on top of the sand, providing an easier transition from the gravel pathways over the dunes to the beaches. They are sometimes referred to as “Mobi- Mats,” short for mobility mats.
Seniors, small children, people with disabilities and families lugging strollers to the beach will all be helped by the mats. Every summer, local residents and visitors urge the city to install more mats to make their treks across the sand even smoother.
The non-slip mats look like bright blue carpet strips from a distance. They don’t extend the entire width across the sand, but make it easier to cross the dunes and head out onto the beach. At the handicap-accessible beaches, the mats average about 70 feet long, city officials say.
Sea Isle has had the beach mats for about 15 years. At first, they were placed at the city’s six handicap-accessible beaches at 32nd Street, 40th Street, John F. Kennedy Boulevard, 44th Street, 63rd Street and 85th Street.
During the summer of 2018, the mats were installed at intervals of about every three blocks between 29th and 91st streets.
As the mats became even more popular with the public, Sea Isle announced plans in 2019 to put them at every one of the lifeguard-protected beaches.
The city then set the goal of having the mats at every beach block between 29th and 92nd streets. Now, the city is installing the mats at beach entrances along the entire length of the island – from First Street to 93th Street.