By Jordan Wolfe
Few things slow wheelchairs down faster than sand. Manzanita changed that, in 2008.
Manzanita is among the only coastal communities to lend, for free, the use of one of three beach wheelchairs.
“They’re just wheelchairs with really big, rubber tires,” said Kristin Grasseth, administrative assistant for the city of Manzanita.
Dan Haag, Manzanita Visitors Center coordinator, said “No other visitor organization or chamber up and down this stretch of coast offers the beach wheelchair service. We are getting inquiries from visitor organizations in Astoria, all the way down to Yachats.”
Seaside may have recently started offering the wheelchair service, Haag added.
Housed at Manzanita City Hall, Grasseth said the wheelchairs were donated to the city to lend visitors.
“People get to take their grandma to the beach, who may not have gone in years, or ailing siblings or children with disabilities. It makes them feel good to be with their family on the beach. It brings tears to your eye from time to time.”
Due to the location of city hall, she added they can use a rental company to take the wheelchairs to the beach, rentals or the inns.
“We have no way of monitoring the chairs, so we just ask people to only take them on our beach in Manzanita.”
Grasseth said Manzanita has received a grant to build an extension to the Visitor’s Center, located at the end of Laneda, for the wheelchairs to relocate to, so visitors can borrow them at a location closer to the beach and that will be open on weekends.
“The difficult part is city hall is closed during the weekend.”
Originally located in the, now closed, Bikes and Boards, the wheelchairs were taken back, after the shop closed, to be held at city hall until other accommodations at the Visitors Center are created.
“Public Works oil the chairs and get the sand off, so they don’t rust,” said Grasseth. “However, they’re getting older and we’re looking to replace them.”
The “Path to the Pacific” ramp for wheelchairs, at the end of Laneda, was dedicated on June 21, 2008, according to the manuscript of the speech Leila Salmon, president of the Manzanita city council, delivered on that date.
“The ramp began as a memorial to Bud Kretsinger, the owner of the San Dune Tavern,” Salmon said during the ceremony.
In her speech, Salmon thanked major financial contributors Spirit Mountain Community Fund, Tillamook County, the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development and Nehalem Bay Senior Affairs Forum.
Grasseth said Nehalem Bay Seniors Affair Forum is the group that got the project going, with Carol Povey acting as a lead coordinator and fundraiser.
She added that Oregon Parks and Recreation Department awarded a $50,000 grant.
A second donation of $50,000 came from Debi Coleman, Grasseth said.
“Everybody worked in collaboration for seniors and people with disabilities,” she added, “We hear all sorts of wonderful stories.”
For more information, contact the city of Manzanita at 503-368-5343.