Kathleen Thackaberry stares down the sandy slope to the beckoning waves beyond.
“I’d make it down, but I wouldn’t make it back up,” said Thackaberry, as she shuffles, cane in hand, back to her husband’s van.
The Thackaberrys bought their cottage on Mosley Street more than 15 years ago, when Kathleen would have thought nothing of walking down 14th Street to access the beach.
She and her husband, Foster, came to Canada in 1982. She first worked in nursing, then in the school system with children with mobility issues.
“We bought the cottage so I could go down to the beach,” she said. “I’m from Trinidad, so this reminds me of my home.”
Today, she can’t go for more than a few feet — and certainly not down a sandy slope. The next nearest access to the beach, at 15th Street, is no better.
“For me to walk even a little bit is painful. I can walk down, but coming back I’m frightened I’d end up in an ambulance,” Thackaberry said, noting she hurt her ankle the previous week trying to get up the slope. An elderly neighbour broke a rib after falling while trying to navigate her way up the access point.
When it rains, the water creates gullies that make the walk even more treacherous.`
Thackaberry wonders why either the municipality or Ontario Parks can’t install a walkway — not just for her, she said, but for a number of neighbourhood residents who have mobility issues.
The access points are owned by Ontario Parks; an Ontario Parks representative did not respond to a request for interview.
In 2013, polymer mats called Mobi Mats were installed at and, allowing individuals with mobility challenges to access the water and washrooms. Fred Heyduk, the chair of the town’s accessibility advisory committee, said those were determined to be the best two locations based on parking, ease of access, and availability of washroom facilities.
Heyduk said the committee is considering purchasing another, “but they are really expensive.”
The first mats were purchased thanks to a federal government grant and a donation from a Stonebridge owner Hamount Investments.
Last year, the committee arranged for the purchase of two Mobi Chairs that can be taken into the water; the chairs are free to use, and available at Nancy Island and the provincial park office.
The committee is discussing the purchase of ‘wings’ for the Mobi Mats that would allow an individual using a wheelchair to pull off to the side of the main mat area at the water’s edge. It would be a project in 2019, if it receives budget approval.
“There’s definitely more to be done,” Heyduk said. “We’re making that beach as accessible as possible, but we also have to be cautious and courteous of our guests who come to Wasaga Beach.”
The committee’s other initiatives have included recommendations to make public transit stops accessible, and the installation of audible crosswalk signals.
“You might not see it, but we are making a lot of improvements and a lot of headway,” Heyduk said. “The town is … all about making this beach more accessible for seniors.”
“(But) we have to mindful where we’re going to spend money.”
Thackaberry hopes her issue can be addressed, since driving somewhere else to access one of the other beach areas is a “huge rigmarole.”
“We worked hard to get this little cottage, and for us not to be able to access the beach is hard,” she said.