Bernie’s Beach becomes Madison’s first accessible beach

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MADISON, Wisconsin (WMTV) – At Bernie’s Beach, a 24-foot-long carpet invites those with mobility issues to step closer to the water.

With the installation completed several weeks ago by Madison Parks, Bernie’s Beach has become the city’s first wheelchair accessible beach.

Martha Siravo, who lost her ability to walk after a car crash in 2002, described the challenges of visiting a park that is not accessible. “It’s frustrating and it makes you feel uncomfortable,” she said. Her daughter also relies on a leg warmer and a cane to get around.

“Having an accessible place and feeling included is more than being able to do everything everyone else does. It’s about having the space to enjoy the things around you, ”she said.

According to the Parks Division, the beach mat project began with a thousand dollar donation from a community member to the Madison Parks Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises funds for parks and beaches in the city. A Madison Park ranger then came up with the idea of ​​improving accessibility to Bernie’s Beach and consulted Siravo on the project.

“It really took some creative thinking, research and knowledge and listening carefully to the needs of the community,” said Eric Knepp, Parks Division Superintendent. He explained that beaches usually pose big engineering challenges.

Stephanie Franklin, executive director of the foundation, said there will be an addition to the platform at Bernie’s Beach, resulting in a project that will cost around two thousand dollars.

“This kind of work leads to what is really reasonably priced, not a resource incentive thing, to add inclusion and access. We look forward to doing this on more of our ranges across the system, ”Knepp said.

Franklin said: “Our organization plans, with or without a gift, to invest money in two or three beaches per year to make the 12 [city beaches] accessible.”

She also shared exclusively with NBC15 that the foundation will begin an endowment to increase accessibility through the park system. To begin with, the group announced that they had received $ 100,000 from the Pleasant Rowland Foundation.

In addition to the beaches, the foundation said it is currently raising funds to add five fully accessible playgrounds. The group’s fundraising has already enabled Madison Parks to build two, in Brittingham and Elver Parks.

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