Accessible beach mats rolled out in Victoria, Oak Bay, Nanaimo

CHEK News photo
Mobi-Mat at Willows Beach in Oak Bay.

Various Vancouver Island communities have rolled out seasonal beach mats, making it easier for people with mobility challenges to soak up some sunshine and enjoy ocean views.

The accessible mats, known as Mobi-Mats, are back at Ross Bay in Victoria and Willows Beach in Oak Bay, according to the municipalities in social media posts.

Nanaimo, meanwhile, has mats at Departure Bay Beach, Colliery Dam Park, Neck Point Park and Loudon Park, an advocacy group shared on Facebook. It lauds the initiative, saying it helps instill confidence in people with disabilities.

“I am sure they will be well used by many members of our community,” said Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog last June, when the city expanded its Mobi-Mat fleet to more locations, based on popularity and suitability for instillation.

“This mat provides a smooth and stable surface for wheelchair users and others with mobility challenges to access the rocky beach,” the City of Victoria said, adding it helps create “an inclusive recreation space” on a summer’s day.

The city notes that the Ross Bay beach mat, an ongoing feat in B.C.’s capital since 2021, can be accessed via the sidewalk along Dallas Road.

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The District of Oak Bay adds that its mat “will ensure that everyone – including those with accessibility concerns – can enjoy the beauty of Willows Beach!”

There, Sandra Birrell is a big fan. The Oak Bay woman was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis decades ago, and she was eventually forced into a wheelchair, meaning she could no longer walk along local beaches.

She was restricted to the sidewalk, off the sand. But last August, the Oak Bat Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs helped fund a Mobi-Mat, and Birrell was thrilled.

“We’ve got two granddaughters, I’ll be able to watch them build sandcastles, we’ll be able to take a fish and chip dinner down there,” she told CHEK News.

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According to Leslie Johnson, president of the local Kiwanis Club, the mat in Oak Bay cost $14,000. She said stories like Birrell’s inspired members to bring it to fruition.

“That is the entire sole purpose of the mat. But it’s also for the community as well,” added Johnson.

“We have people coming down with kayaks.”

The manufacturer of Mobi-Mat says the seasonally installed, non-slip walkway is made from recycled material. It helps those with wheels (wheelchairs, strollers, wagons, kayak trailers) more easily access the beach area.

The mats in the Island communities are in place throughout summer and are usually rolled back up sometime in September.

Ethan Morneau

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