Mobility mats are non-slip recycled polyester materials that rollup and can be put down to provide beach goers with better access to the water from Marco’s public beach access points.
On the December 7th City Council Meeting, Erin Milchman of the Marco Patriots and resident Bob Roth appeared with a proposal for “beach mats to be installed to accommodate our elderly islanders, handicapped people and young mommies with children all the way to the shoreline.”
Facts/Dimensions: Five- or six- feet wide; 50 or 100 feet in length. Depending on the brand, cost runs about $1,500 for 30 feet and $2,000 for 50 feet. Pacing from Resident’s Beach Tiki huts to high water line is approximately 650 feet.
Bob Roth informed the City Council that he had spoken with Gary McAlpin of the Collier County Coastal Zone Management, who had suggested that if the City of Marco Island were to request from the County to have a mat, the County would be obligated to allow it and pursue it. The process would be for Marco to submit a request from the City Manager and send it to the Commissioners; County then will prepare the design and get the permits. The County indicated it is not going to pay for it.
City Council Chair Grifoni replied, “this is an interesting concept and certainly meets the needs of the citizens and is worth exploring.” The City Manager added that perhaps the process will start with the Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee (BACR).
At the January 29th BACR meeting, member Andrew Tyler had a presentation on beach mobility mats. He stated that the issue is not the acquisition of the mats, but more of the maintenance of the mats.
The mats would need to be secured during inclement weather.
Tyler also pointed out that the main purpose of the mat is for people with ADA (Americans with Disability Act) issues to get to the waterline. Tyler added “if you do not have a person who is trained in ADA compliance, you are going to find that people will complain saying, I tried to use that mat, but it was filled with sand and we could not get to the waterline. Without someone familiar with ADA, it can be a mess.”
Mick Moriarty, a representative from Marco Patriots, came before BACR to speak on the beach mat proposal, and provided City Staff with samples of beach mats and with letter of support.
Moriarty indicated, “it’s not hard to maintain once they are put down properly; the only issue you have is sand.” He mentioned that “at Residents Beach, every day they have a guy on maintenance that uses a gas blower on their boardwalks – there is nothing for him to continue down for 650 feet – might take him an additional 15-20 minutes of his day.”
Another idea he proposed was the use of volunteers from Kiwanis, Boy Scouts, Marco Patriots, and/or church youth groups where “they each take a weekend to spruce it up.”
On fundraising, Moriarty indicated that “if we talk to the people at Marco Patriots, we can get that money in place.” He also proposed using the tourist taxes, pointing out that “the County raises a lot of money and 40% is collected from Marco Island mainly from JW Marriott.”
BACR member McChesney questioned the use of volunteer groups and the need to look at the total cost; member Tyler recommended doing the shorter site first and if it does not work there, it is not going to work on the longer sites. Member O’Donnell shared Tyler’s cautious approach; Member Eastman wanted to find the pros and cons of these mats from communities that have installed them. Lamb wanted to make sure that the mats are going to serve the demographic they are meant to serve.
The committee made a motion to defer this issue to City Staff for due diligence, and to present their recommendations to the City Council.