TRAVERSE CITY — Waves lap. Warm breezes cool sun-tilted faces. It's a lovely, relaxing morning at the beach until Samir Moubarak's power wheelchair hits the sand and launches people into action.
The chair immediately founders in the warm powder, and it takes three sets of arms to muscle it back up to the platform. Lesson #1: "Set the brake before you get out," joked Moubarak, 33, as he sank back into his chair, relieved.
The momentary excitement illustrated a point. Sand is not conducive to much besides walking, and it acts as a fence for Moubarak, who longed for Traverse City's lakeside living enough to move here from downstate but can't use the beach without wheelchair access.
"I love the beach and love coming out here," Moubarak said at Bryant Park last week as he attended a ribbon cutting of the city's third access path.
Bryant Park joins a growing list of accessible beaches and parks in the region, including Clinch Park, Keith J. Charters State Park, Petoskey State Park Beach and Boyne City's Whiting Park Beach. Alanson's Camp Petosega Beach joins the fold June 27 with a 10:30 ribbon cutting.
Access projects are set in motion by people who bring their ideas to Disability Network Northern Michigan, said Annie Campbell, the group's development director. Walkways connect people to water; the organization "connects the dots" between funding, permitting and construction, Campbell said.
"The perception is 'We don't see disabled people at the beach.' Well, there is a good reason," Campbell said.
"Once you dig those wheels into the sand, it is very difficult to get around," said Rhonda Estes.
Her husband,Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes, and son Vincent are the primary private donors for Bryant Park's rigid modular walkway. The "ADAwalk" is made by Michigan Lake Products in Elk Rapids, and the walkway and railed sitting area cost about $16,000.