Mat, chair to help wheelchair-bound people enjoy Fernandina Beach

Marlene Chapman says her family loved going to the main beach in Fernandina, but there was one problem.

“Our daughter had a diving accident five years ago, and we came here and realized that while many things were accessible, the beach was not,” said Chapman.

She said her daughter, who loved the water, couldn’t get close.

So she spearheaded an idea to get a Mobi-Mat, which allows people with mobility challenges to get on the beach.

She also wanted a chair that will allow those who are wheelchair-bound to get in the water.

But the cost was expensive.

Local nonprofits like Eight Flags Playscapes along with neighbors like Taylor Gammage raised the money for the mat and chair.

“We had two events, one at Alley Cats -- a wine tasting -- and I raised $1,000,” said Gammage.

She raised another $1,250 by holding a poker tournament at another bar where she worked.

The city also agreed to set aside money for the project.

“Then the City of Fernandina Beach used about $10,000 in impact fees to get the Mobi-Mats we wanted,” said Parks and Recreation Director Nan Voit.

The mayor said it was just one of the things he wanted to accomplish to make Fernandina a better place to live and visit.

“This year one of our goals was to become the most ADA-accessible community in the state of Florida, and this is one step toward that,” said Mayor Johnny Miller.

Chapman said her daughter has used a Mobi-Mat before and loved it because it gave her freedom to get close to the ocean without the hassle.

The mat will be unveiled at 11 a.m. Saturday at Main Beach in Fernandina.

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