Cannon Beach wants disabled beachgoers to get to roll

The Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce is leading an effort to purchase beach-friendly wheelchairs. A beach wheelchair from Deming Designs is shown.

CANNON BEACH — Unlike neighboring cities Seaside and Manzanita, Cannon Beach does not offer beach-accessible wheelchairs for visitors.

The Chamber of Commerce and partners Remax Coastal Advantage, Martin Hospitality and Escape Lodging hope to bring sand-friendly wheelchairs to Cannon Beach by next summer. At a City Council work session last week, the city agreed to work with the chamber on the accessibility project, which could mean storing the wheelchairs at City Hall.

Chamber representatives said the wheelchairs would enhance visitor experience and allow beach access for disabled people outside of a vehicle.

“Sadly, not all of our guests are able to experience the magnificent wonder of Oregon because of disabilities,” said Matthew Weintraub, the chamber’s destination marketing manager. “The project needs the city’s involvement to be executed as effectively as possible. One of the major reasons we’d like the city to be a stakeholder and possibly take spatial ownership of these chairs is that you’re in close proximity to the ADA-accessible ramp by the beach.”

The chamber seeks to purchase one adult chair and one youth chair that would be free for public use. The nonmotorized beach wheelchairs have a base cost of $2,500 each and include 4- to 5-inch-wide tires that keep the chair above sand, Weintraub said.

Mayor Sam Steidel said the project could start small, then grow. Councilors asked about the chairs’ durability, liability issues, grant opportunities and the possibility of business sponsorships.

Councilor Melissa Cadwallader said the goal date of acquiring the chairs by June 20 is within the city’s current fiscal year and not in the budget.

Though the city allows permits for disabled visitors to drive or be driven on the beach, their experience is “limited to them sitting in place or being carried,” Weintraub said.

Court Carrier, the chamber’s executive director, said he has received a handful of complaints about the city’s lack of beach wheelchairs.

“What a cap for us to be able to say we have made our beach totally accessible to everyone, and have that available in the year of the Beach Bill anniversary,” Carrier said.

Councilor Wendy Higgins said she gets requests at the Ocean Lodge for beach wheelchairs. “It would be nice to have it in our own community,” she said.

The chamber identified Deming Designs as a possible manufacturer and could pursue funding opportunities from Clatsop County, Travel Oregon and others.

Melisa Colvin of Bronze Coast Gallery wrote a letter supporting the project, noting that her wheelchair-bound father had used beach wheelchairs in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. “It made such a difference for us, at a difficult time, for him to be able to join the rest of the family on the beach,” she wrote. “I’d love to see Cannon Beach become a place that could make this possible, as well.”

“Cannon Beach is the jewel of the Oregon Coast, and it is frankly an embarrassment that there are no beach wheelchairs available in Cannon Beach for our visitors to access the beaches,” local real estate agent Alaina Giguiere wrote in a letter.

The project team will come back to the City Council with more information.

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