September 5, 2018



New Beach Access Walkways in Avon are Designed to
Stand up to Storms – And They’re Working

By JOY CRIST




Ocean View Drive in Avon has been a troublesome spot during storms in recent years. The area is susceptible to oceanside flooding, and during a series of nor’easters that hit the region hard in the spring of 2018, a line of staircases and walkways that originally led to the beach were washed away, along with the dunes.

It has happened before in this area, as the winter months degrade the beach and the summertime climate restores it back into place, and Pat Weston, President of the Greater Kinnakeet Homeowners Association, says that they are accustomed to restoring the beach access walkways on an annual basis.

“In the past, we tried to have all of the walkways [on Ocean View Drive] back open for beach access by Easter, because that’s usually the first big week for visitors, and we want to have everything in order,” she says. “But the way the weather occurred this year, and with the loss of the dunes, it wasn’t feasible. We couldn’t meet that date like we always have in the past.”

Instead, due to the nor’easter-caused destruction in the area, construction equipment and bulldozers shifted sand back into place throughout the spring months, as homeowners and the National Park Service cleaned up the leftover debris along the beach.

The walkway staircases that used to cross the dunes were a problem during storms, too. Broken into pieces during severe weather, chunks of the former staircases would litter the beach, creating an area-wide hazard.

“Historically, we lose at least two staircases every year due to storms of some nature,” says Weston. “It’s been a continuing problem and expense over the years– not even taking into account that when a walkway or stairs are destroyed, there is the collateral damage of debris washed onto the beach. It’s dangerous because the debris is comprised of wood and nails, ranging in size from large sections to smaller, individual components.  Those smaller pieces washed onto the beach can become covered by sand, and could cause an injury.”

This year, after losing all but one of the seven staircases that used to provide beach access to the Ocean View Drive shoreline, Pat Weston decided it was time to look for a better alternative, and a long-term solution and as opposed to a short-term repair.

She started her search online, which eventually lead her to a new form of walkway, called the Mobi-Mat.

Mobi-Mats are more or less what the name implies. These portable and mobile walkways are thin, pliable matting, that measure 50 feet in length and 5 feet wide, and which are rolled out onto the sand.

And when Weston contacted the company’s New Jersey headquarters, and was referred to their sales rep who provided more info, she knew they had an enticing potential solution on our hands.  

“For one thing, they’re made in the USA,” she says. “They are also constructed from 100% recycled materials, and [are] lightweight with a 50-foot section weighing about 68 pounds. So you can roll a section out on the beach, and if there is a threat of a storm, we can literally roll the [Mobi-Mat] up, store it, and then just bring it back out when the storm is over. Best of all, there’s no debris to be left behind on the beach.”

There are some other unique features of the deceivingly simple looking walkways, as well. They are non-slip, barefoot friendly, and are resistant to UV and temperatures from -40 to +80C. Because of the patented design, sand can also sift through the woven fibers to keep them relatively clear and easy to walk on. The mats almost float on top of the sand, and simply need to be shaken out every few weeks in terms of maintenance.

And in Kinnakeet Shores, the fact that there are few dunes, and big piles of sand in place of the former dunes, finding a new means to access the beach was key.

“There was no way we could build stairs on the sand piles this year, because they were not established dunes - they were just sand piles,” says Weston. “This mat system was going to be easier and more stable than stairs, and seemed to be the most logical and economical way to go.”

Once Weston discovered the Mobi-Mats, she reached out to the Board, and to the National Park Service, hoping to move forward.  It was then that she was informed that at least one had been installed already in the Outer Banks area close to Jeannette’s Pier, albeit across a much flatter area, and was used as the handicapped beach access from the bathhouse in that location.

“The Board supported the project, and the National Park Service was behind us, applauding our forward-thinking,” she said. “We were insistent that we thought this was the best way to go, and I think we made believers out of a lot of people.”

Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent David Hallac was on board with the idea, and was happy to issue the Special Use Permit to add the Mobi-Mats to the former public walkways. “We think they are great,” he says. “We permitted those folks to put them in because we thought it was worth trying, and thought it might be something that was more sustainable and easier to manage before and after storms. My understanding is it seems to be working fairly well.”

“When we permit staircases [at beach accesses], ultimately we tend to have to clean them up after storms and dispose of them,” he adds. “We see this as a good long term potential solution because they can be removed before the storm and placed back after the storm blows through.”

Hallac also noted that Mobi-Mats are being used in other areas of the National Park as well, including as a temporary walkway at the Wright Brothers Memorial while the visitors’ center is under construction. Mobi-Mats are also being used throughout the northern Outer Banks, in the towns of Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills.

The new Mobi-Mats in Avon were installed along the beach accesses on Ocean View Drive during the first part of June, just in time for heavy summer traffic. And after weeks of use, the new walkways are holding up well, with tons of compliments rolling in.

“The good thing is that it’s easier now to walk over to the beach, and to pull a fishing cart or wagon or stroller or other beach equipment along. You don’t have to travel across stairs anymore,” says Weston. “We have not had one single complaint, and there have been a lot of e-mails, text messages, and phone calls from people saying how wonderful it is.”

“Everyone has been so happy about it, and are so glad we went that route.”

Dave Hallac echoes this sentiment, and sees potential for the Mobi-Mats to become a trend for sensitive areas on the island that may also be prone to losing stairs and walkways during seasonal storms.

“If things work out well, it could be a great model for other areas of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore,” he says.

And so far, the new Mobi-Mats have done their job and have provided a clear route to Ocean View Drive’s most enviable and popular attraction – the oceanfront beaches.







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