Jack’s first day on our beach

This is for Marion. Today wouldn’t have happened without Marion, DASH and the new beach chair.  (Update: For the complete story of how this beach chair and also a beach walker came to our community, please see the comments below by Anne McEnery, Jefferson County Public Health Development Disabilities Coordinator and Marion Huxtable of DASH.)

Jack spent this afternoon on the beach in front of our house, a crescent that sweeps from Point Hudson to the lighthouse out on Point Wilson.  It was his first time in the eleven years that we’ve been in Port Townsend either as moorage tenants or homeowners.

On dune
From atop a dune, we watched the ceremonial arrival of the tribal canoes.

Not only was the weather perfect, today was the Canoe Journey. We sat atop the dune and watched the ceremonial arrival of crews from Canadian First Nations and tribes from the outer coast and throughout the Salish Sea.  As each canoe approached the shore,  elders of the tribe who were sitting under a tent would request permission to come ashore from the Jamestown S’Kallalam. After drumming, song, and prayers in the native languages, crews carried their canoes onto the beach, with help from Port Townsend folks.

Tribal crew carries canoe onto the beach with local folks lending a hand.
Tribal crew hoists their canoe onto the beach with local folks lending a hand.

We’d picked up the beach chair at the Cablehouse Beach Canteen at the head of the pier. Signed a waiver, left drivers’ license and credit card, although there is no cost.

We started our walk on the stretch of beach between the lighthouse and the pier. The chair is surprisingly easy to push, although I got help pushing up the dune.  Since there are drift logs high on the dunes, it’s a good idea to make sure the path you’ve chosen is not blocked by a log. It’s easy enough to find a suitable path and important to stay on paths and not damage the dune grass.

The easiest stretch of beach to move on is just east of the pier. Hard packed sand is smooth and yet leads to interesting low tide wildlife.

This stretch of beach is an easy roll









Further along, there’s good, accessible wildlife viewing.
A tiny close up landscape of barnacles, seaworms, drills, and seaweed in diverse shapes and colors.
A tiny close up landscape of barnacles, seaworms, drills, and seaweed in diverse shapes and colors.









About halfway down, the beach turns rocky so it’s nice to move to the long, low-tide spit.  It’s fairly easy to push the chair over the seaweed-covered stones. We looked for a narrower band of them and stopped to turn over stones and see what was under them.

Once on the spit, it’s easy going again.  As we got toward Point Hudson awe cross to the path on shore. Here we got into some difficulty because the tide was now coming in. We headed for the green patches, but here they are not seaweed-covered rock but eelgrass.  Eelgrass grows fast in the summer and it’s hard to estimate how much of it is floating on the surface. We got into deeper water and probably did some damage to this important salmon habitat.  But as happened all along the walk, some folks helped us get to shore.

At low tide a long firm spit leads past Chetzamoka Park to Point Hudson.
At low tide, a long firm spit leads past Chetzmoka Park to Point Hudson.

After dropping Jack off near home and bringing his scooter, I walked the chair back down the beach. This took a while as I was repeatedly stopped by beach walkers with questions! A woman from Sequim who’d never imagined a beach chair, came up open-mouth in amazement. She’d noticed people moving with difficulty along Dungeness Spit. Two paddlers from the Jamestown S’Kallam tribe took photos of the chair to Facebook so they can start a campaign to get a chair for their elders.

So hats off to Marion and her colleagues at DASH. The folks at the Fort Worden Canteen are displaying the chair and a fat-wheeled walker right at the front door. I offered to give the chair a shower before returning it but they said they’d take care of it. The signout procedure is fine, though I see no reason to leave both drivers’ license and credit card. The form, moreover, should not ask borrowers to write down credit card number.

What I’d really like to see is DASH take some credit and use the beach chair to do some education. A clear plastic pocket could be attached to the back of the seat. Information about project partners, availability and instructions for use could be prominently displayed there. Small handouts of some kind could be included for those who want to tell others or who are interested in getting chairs for their communities.  And why not give chair users a chance to make a donation?

2 thoughts on “Jack’s first day on our beach

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  1. Hello, your blog about your husband’s experience with the beach wheelchair is so wonderful!!! Thank you to Marion for letting you know about the wheelchair.

    I would like to share a clarification about how the wheelchair came to be at the Fort. Funding for the beach wheelchair and the beach walker came from the Governor’s Committee on Disability and Employment through our local Accessibility Community Advisory Committee, (ACAC).

    Here is the history of this grant, the committee and the beach wheelchair/walker project.
    Toby Olsen, the Executive Secretary of the Governor’s Committee on Disability and Employment in Olympia had a brilliant idea! How about the Committee access $100 of every ticket that is given out to people who park in accessible parking spots without a permit! The legislature said yes and the Governor’s Committee now has almost a million dollars in the fund.
    Toby’s idea was that every County in WA State, (through the County Commissioners approval) could access this funding for a range of projects that support the following for people with disabilities in their local communities:
    • eliminate access issues,
    • barrier removal,
    • educational activities that promote awareness and acceptance.

    The grant application was given to me by two Jefferson Co. County Commissioners. I pulled a group of local people together who have a disability and/or work in the field, volunteer or are a parent of a child with a disability, (that includes two representatives from DASH who attend on a regular basis) and created our local Accessibility Community Advisory Committee, (ACAC).
    I sent the grant info along with an ACAC membership list to the Governor’s Committee and they approved Jefferson County to apply for funding! The ACAC came up with ideas for projects, applied for a grant of $24,165 and received it.

    The beach wheelchair/walker was an idea of an ACAC member named Kim Rafferty. She is also a member of the Developmental Disabilities Board Member, (a stepparent of a person with downs syndrome and of a daughter who uses a scooter). Kim’s family accessed a beach wheelchair on a family vacation in Florida and it was terrific! So Kim brought up the idea to the ACAC, committee members did research and we obtained approval from the Governor’s Committee to buy a beach wheelchair and beach walker for Jefferson County. Kim spoke to Fort Worden, (she is friends with Dave Robison the head of the PDA at the Fort) and they loved idea! The rest is history so to speak~

    The beach wheelchair has only been up and running for a little over two weeks. We are working on a press release/article for the Leader about the wheelchair and the ACAC and I would like to create some marketing materials about the chair/walker.

    I would like to invite you and your husband to our next ACAC meeting to speak about your experience with the wheelchair. It will be held at Public Health in Port Townsend on Monday, September 19th at 2pm. Please email me if you are interested in attending!

  2. Jefferson County Accessible Community Advisory Committee worked with DASH and other advocacy groups on getting the funding for the chair and walker (and many other things too that benefit people with disabilities) from funds available through Washington State Accessible Communities Act. Counties that have such an advisory committee are eligible to apply for grants. Brochures that provide details about accessible restaurants and entertainment venues, a map of accessible Port Townsend and a new updated DASH web site http://www.dashproject.org have also been funded. The map will be posted very soon and available at the Visitor Center. The new and very informative DASH web site will be published in September.

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