Fitness played an integral role in Sabrina Cohen’s life after she suffered a spinal-cord injury that paralyzed her from the neck down.
Now Cohen, a lifelong athlete and founder of the Sabrina Cohen Foundation, an organization that seeks to develop wellness programs for people living with paralysis and disabilities, is working with the city of Miami Beach to make fitness more accessible to all.
The foundation is moving forward with plans to build an adaptive wellness and recreation center in North Beach’s Allison Park, a proposal approved for further review by the Miami Beach City Commission, Mayor Philip Levine and City Manager Jimmy Morales in late September.
The center would be paid for by the nonprofit foundation and boast features like a fully accessible gym, a yoga studio and aquatherapy facilities. Its beachfront location would make it one-of-a-kind, Cohen said.
“I wanted to create an atmosphere of empowerment,” she said. “Not white-wall and clinical, where people are sad and crying, but rather, a more inclusive . . . fun, uplifting environment.”
The center is one part of a multicomponent endeavor by the city to increase accessibility of resources to those who are handicapped, said John Rebar, director of Miami Beach Parks Administration.
Also in the works is an all-inclusive playground with accessible picnic tables and fitness equipment, as well as a beach entrance that can better accommodate handicapped visitors.
Community feedback regarding the project has been overwhelmingly positive, Rebar said.
“If there was any anxiety I’ve heard about,” he said, “it’s been about the parking.”
The parking option currently being considered would address this concern by adding more than 40 spaces, creating a total of 120, 17 of them for handicapped-only.
It has not yet been determined how much the various components of the project would cost nor when they would be completed. A second viewing of the project will take place Dec. 9.
Miami Beach residents will vote on the issue in a March 2016 referendum.