New ramp to be designed for disabled access to beach
Update 2pm: RESIDENTS residents and visitors living with mobility issues and disabilities will have to wait until a new ramp is built at Lighthouse Beach to use a mobility mat that has been in storage for years.
Council agreed unanimously today for council staff to determine the most suitable design and location for the ramp, as the current one is too steep and has been deemed unsafe.
The preferred location of the ramp will be determined in consultation with the Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Lifesaving Club.
Cr Keith Williams encouraged council staff and councillors to complete this matter at the fastest possible rate.
"I'd just encouraged us to not hang about too long waiting for the grant funding, let's continue the design work and ket this finalised," he said.
Cr Eoin Johnston agreed the situation needs to be resolved quickly.
"The fundraising for this was a wonderful effort, and the mat materialised, came to the club, and it was used for a limited amount of time," he said.
"It was very difficult to use due to erosion and the authority has banned then club from using the existing ramp because it's too steep to use for the mat.
"So now we are stuck with a mat in the surf club, we've got people who would like to use it, we've got willing surf club members willing to facilitate its use, and we've got this lady (Tracey Everingham-Armstrong) who have done such wonderful work to raise the money, and there's been frustration all around because that's gone on for a while."
Original story: ACCESS to Lighthouse Beach has been difficult for visitors living with mobility issues, despite the purchase of a device to help three years ago, but that could be about to change.
A mobility mat purchased in 2017 had remained in storage due to erosion.
The issue, raised by Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life Saving Club in July, will be discussed by Ballina Shire Council at their meeting this Thursday.
"Three patrol seasons have come and gone without the use of this valuable resource," a letter from the club to the council said.
Local fundraiser Tracey Everingham-Armstrong fundraised and purchased a 50m Mobi-Mat that was expected to extend from the grassed area from the Ballina Surf Club onto the sands of Lighthouse Beach.
The portable ribbed plastic woven mat allows people in wheelchairs, children in prams and those who use walking frames to be able to get on to the beach.
Mrs Everingham-Armstrong raised $13,000 for the mat at her annual Melbourne Cup luncheon in 2016. She also secured a $4800 FundAbility grant from Northcott, an organisation which provides services for people with a disability.
Ballina Shire Council, through a grant to Biala Special School, chipped in the balance of $1400 for the total $19,200 cost of the mat.
The Mobi Mat was officially launched for use at Lighthouse Beach in April 2017 and has been rolled out in front of the SLSC Clubhouse.
But over time, the area where the mat was used has been degraded by erosion.
The council will discuss a beach access ramp adjacent to the Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Lifesaving Club.
The council has three possible concept plans for the location of the ramp.
One option was a pathway through an area of rainforest and dune vegetation, estimated to cost $75,500.
The second option was building a ramp "incorporating several switchbacks adjacent to the existing ramp", with an estimated cost of $174,500.
A third option was the construction of a ramp (with several switchbacks) on the northern
side of the existing concrete beach access ramp, but no feasibility or costing has been completed.
The council and the surf club will have to seek grant funding to construct a compliant accessible beach access ramp, based on the outcomes of the feasibility analysis.
The report to councillors stated "the provision of dignified access to the beach for people with disabilities is a positive outcome. The provision of a ramp as proposed will improve
access for those using a mobility aid, who do not necessarily have access to a support person, to access the beach".