The following are my comments made at the June 3, 2008 Dedication of the new Beach Access Ramps and Walkways.
Thank you all for attending today’s dedication of the Deck and Ramp Access to the beach for both the Western Ocean Regional Access and the Eastern Ocean Regional Access. Since completion several weeks ago, these ramps have been heavily used by individuals in wheelchairs, individuals that find it difficult to navigate steps, families taking items to the beach, etc. The deck has been used by individuals that want to see the ocean but find it difficult to walk in the sand. It has been enjoyed by many and will be enjoyed by many in the future.
The realization of this project is truly the result of many working together. On a project like this, there is never one single beginning point, and it is virtually impossible to recognize everyone that played a part. I thank all of you that played a part in making this happen.
Several years ago, the Carteret County Mayor’s Association for Disabilities through Randy and Kim Hebert inquired about how we could get more handicap beach walkways. One thing led to another, and Rudi Rudolph, Carteret County Shore Protection Officer, organized a meeting among all Bogue Banks municipalities, CAMA, the Hebert’s, and himself. The Hebert’s were able to explain the difficulties being encountered by the handicap community, CAMA was able to explain the types of construction allowed on the beach, and we discussed the challenges of maintaining different types of structures on the beach. I think everyone left with a better understanding and a desire to so something.
In the case of Emerald Isle, Alesia Sanderson, our Parks and Recreation Director, put together an application for a grant for these two projects from CAMA. We were fortunate to receive the grant for 80% of the project; the Emerald Isle Commissioners provided the other 20% and the project was off and running. Frank Rush will speak about the individuals that played a part in getting us from the funding stage to completion today. This was a true team effort between the Shore Protection Office, the Mayor’s Committee for Disabilities, CAMA, and the Town of Emerald Isle.
The Emerald Isle Fire Department has beach wheelchairs that can be used on a daily basis free of charge, and Bruce Norman of our Fire Department can relay to you some of the many favorable comments that he has gotten about the program. Also, the Mayor’s Committee for Disabilities has received several grants for the Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority for the publication of a brochure about handicap accesses. Carol Lohr and Elizabeth Barrow of the Tourism Authority are both here today. Another example of teamwork.
In closing, I am very proud of the beach accesses that Emerald Isle provides for the general public “free of charge”. This past winter I spent two weeks in Florida playing golf in two different cities. They had access points that were comparable to ours, but there was no free parking. There was a charge to park at all of them. Emerald Isle has four access points with “free parking” for about 450 vehicles; Bogue Inlet Pier has additional parking for over 200 vehicles at a free or minimal charge; and there are 74 additional accesses maintained by the Town. On an annual basis, the Town of Emerald Isle spends approximately $150,000 on trash pickup alone (not to mention the many citizens that walk the beach to pick up loose trash on a daily basis and we couldn’t keep the beach clean without them) to maintain its beaches and beach facilities for the enjoyment of all.
Planning and finding the resources for parking and access is not easy. Emerald Isle is proud to have improved beach access significantly over the last 5 years and looks forward to more improvements in the future. Thank you all for coming and I hope you are as proud as I am and come see us often.
Don’t forget about the Brick Fundraiser program to raise funds for additional EMS equipment/furnishings. We need at least 20 more purchases to reach the next price break. Look at www.emeraldisle-nc.org/brick for details or call Kelly Gamble at 252-354-3424 for information.