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OC Coastkeeper launches program with state to increase beach accessibility

Adaptive surfer Kumaka Jensen, 14, of Huntington Beach rolls out.
Adaptive surfer Kumaka Jensen, 14, of Huntington Beach rolls out on the first Mobi-Mat in Huntington Beach in 2021. The Beach and Coast Accessibility Program would help fund things such as Mobi-Mats and beach wheelchairs to aid mobility on beaches.
(File Photo)
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OC Coastkeeper and the California State Coastal Conservancy announced this week the Beach and Coast Accessibility Program, which aims to fund improvements that would increase access to the coast and recreation for individuals with disabilities.

Officials at the nonprofit confirmed Thursday the grant program will provide up to $30,000 to local jurisdictions, nonprofits and indigenous groups for the acquisition of accessibility equipment. That would include items such as beach wheelchairs, walkers, mats and other equipment.

Applications are not yet open, but both groups will be taking them statewide. The program is also expected to cover maintenance and upkeep costs for up to five years.

“Here in Orange County, we have some of the most beautiful beaches in the state. It’s important to us that everyone who visits our beautiful coastline can have a meaningful experience there,” Garry Brown, president and founder of OC Coastkeeper, said in a statement. “We hope this grant can help people with limited mobility explore Orange County and all California beaches in new and exciting ways.”

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Funding comes from the California State Coastal Conservancy, which approved the disbursement of $250,000 for the program at the end of November. The program is an expansion of 2019 efforts to provide beach wheelchairs at the coast.

OC Coastkeeper spokesman Matt Sylvester said talks to establish the program largely took place during the summer and developed naturally as the state agency has previously given the nonprofit grants and was familiar with the organization’s interest in coastal access and equity.

“[The California State Coastal Conservancy] already have some sort of coast accessibility programming, but it’s through their systems and contacts. It’s the difference of getting funds between the state and us, as a nonprofit,” Sylvester said. “They’re looking to get those funds out to people in all different areas and communities and tapped into us because, although we’re in Orange County, we know people all across the state. It made sense for the funding to come to us and, for us, to help develop the request for proposals [for the program].”

Sylvester noted that some beaches in Orange County can sometimes present challenges, whereas others, like Huntington State Beach, are wide open and easier to access.

“Some are only accessible by steps. There’s such a varying degree, but what this grant program hopes to do is help local agencies and organizations find solutions that work for them. For some people, that might be beach wheelchairs. Others, it might be mats or walkers. We’ve seen some kayaks that might be more friendly to those with challenged mobility,” Sylvester said. “It’s not just about getting onto the sand but about recreating too.”

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