Editorial l Win-win public-private partnership for the community | Editorials

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Across the country, Americans with Disabilities (ADA) beach access mats are creating a buzz in beach communities and have been installed in recent years to allow everyone equal access for fun in the sun and sand.

The mats are made of non-slip materials that allow wheelchairs, walkers and strollers to move on the sand. Few would object to the idea being a benefit to people with limited access due to wheeled sand navigation. Carpets, of course, are not cheap and even require a little maintenance. So with a good idea, who’s going to foot the bill?

As a child, Bruce Titus remembers going to Fort Island Beach with his family watching the sunsets and enjoying the beauty of the beach. In 2016 Bruce Titus had a life changing event; following an accident, he was paralyzed from the chest down. Titus, who has been using a wheelchair since his tragic accident, hasn’t let his chair get in the way of living life to the fullest. That being said, the one thing he missed the most was being able to go to the beach. Although it could handle most terrain, the beach was still a challenge due to the sand.

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In December 2021, Titus first publicly proposed that beach access mats be used here locally to allow people in wheelchairs, walkers or strollers to travel over the sand to the water and enjoy what so many people may take for granted. It was a proposal that came from a university assignment. Titus has researched rugs and is dedicated to seeing this idea come to fruition. He floated the idea, but initially, due to budget and staffing constraints, it wasn’t something the county could afford on its own.

More community support has been received, including a non-profit organization called ‘Once Upon an Ocean’, which was set up to help people in wheelchairs get to the beach. Mark Maksimowicz, who along with his daughters started the nonprofit, has joined local efforts to make beach access mats a reality. He donated money and pledged to donate carpet maintenance for his first year.

Titus and Maksimowicz recently attended a recent BOCC meeting to pitch their ideas. On February 8, commissioners unanimously voted yes and determined how the project would fit into the county budget. A local man with an idea to solve a problem, buy-in from the private community and essential support from local government are the recipe for success.


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