EDITORIAL | Universally accessible parks deserve support

Whidbey is a special place for many reasons, from leisurely walks on the beach to the praiseworthy people who call it home.

Neither should be taken for granted, and never is that so apparent as with Mel Trenor and his efforts at Clinton Beach Park. The Langley man has spent the past one and one half year working tirelessly with the Port of South Whidbey, Island County and other stakeholders on a project to make the small park near the ferry terminal more accessible to the mobility impaired. Both his efforts and the project itself, to make it easier for everyone to enjoy a public resource, are commendable and deserve support.

Trenor’s proposed improvements aren’t exactly revolutionary, but they do roll out the welcome mat for those who struggle with physical limitations — literally. The project will create a u-shaped path of removable mats leading from the parking lot to the edge of the high water mark, along the beach, and back again. That may not seem like much to some, but for those in wheelchairs, people with injuries, even the elderly, it’s a big deal. There’s a reason why people don’t see wheel-chair tracks in the sand.

Two full-size American Disabilities Act compliant parking spaces, ones big enough for a van, will also be created and located along the shoreline side of the parking lot.

If the mats are successful, standing the test of time and proving themselves an economically viable alternative to less environmentally friendly paved sidewalks, it could very well prove a model for other parks in Island County and beyond. Park managers across Whidbey should watch the project with interest and consider making similar improvements at their waterfront facilities. The approximately $15,000 cost seems like a small price to pay for making beach parks universally accessible to all taxpayers — parking lots are cool, but it’s not what the mobility impaired pay to see.

Also, it might pay to get started early as we suspect park managers will be hearing from Trenor regardless.