The venture was the brainchild of Fleetwood Rotarian Mick Gray who is chairman of the wheelchair group and its trustees.
Beach wheelchairs are not just adapted normal wheelchairs, but specially-engineered chairs suitable for beach environments.
They are made of high-grade metal which can withstand the conditions of sand and sea. They also have unique low-pressure tyres to aid ease of access over stones, shingle and wet and dry sand conditions; as well as when suitable being able to go into the surf.
“This whole concept is a world away from the normal wheelchair which is almost impossible to move over such terrain, essentially depriving users of chairs the ability to access the beach and enjoy a great day out with their family or carers,” said Mick.
The charity has received financial support and encouragement from the Rotary club, as well as Fleetwood Town Council, the Healthier Fleetwood Initiative, Wyre Borough Council and the Haldane Trust, a Lancashire charity supporting disability.
Living close to the beach, Mick was aware of people visiting the promenade in wheelchairs, but finding it almost impossible to access the beach and sandy areas. So he came up with a solution.
The service is open to people of all ages who may have health and mobility issues which prevents them from conventionally accessing the Fleetwood beaches.
Fleetwood Beach Wheelchairs now have their headquarters on the promenade next to the beach, opposite the Boston Hotel in Fleetwood.
This is now a dedicated and well-equipped base. There is free parking on-site, and use of wheelchairs is entirely free.
In the current circumstances, volunteers have been abiding by COVID-19 guidelines. The group has strict safety protocols and cleansing procedures when using chairs.
Fleetwood is blessed with good beach conditions which enable operations most of the time weather permitting, and the area has the best views on the Fylde coast over Morecambe Bay and towards the Lakeland mountains.
The service is open to people of all ages who may have health and mobility issues which prevents them from conventionally accessing the Fleetwood beaches.”
Fleetwood Beach Wheelchairs hope the service will once again be fully operational by the summer of 2021, if current restrictions can be lifted.
Mick said that while the group has been grateful for all the financial support given by groups and individuals, they will need to continue to fund-raise.
“Specialist wheelchairs of the kind we use are not cheap, and they also need to keep them in tip-top condition,” he said.
“At present, maintenance is kindly provided by Rotarians with expertise in engineering.”
Such is the success of the initial opening that other local Rotary groups on the Fylde coast have taken an interest. There has been interest from several councils who would like to provide similar services in their areas.
“The scheme has proved immensely popular and is a prime example of Rotary making a huge, positive impact on their community,” added Mick.
For more details: www.fleetwoodbeachwheelchairs.co.uk/