What Way Forward For Ocean City?

Posted on May 10, 2010


Shenanigan’s has a spiffy new sign on the Boardwalk at Fourth Street, replacing the old one that blew over at the end of the 2009 season.

Ocean City: Past, Present, Future

Things are always changing and renewing. People, buildings, and towns need hard effort, just to keep from sliding backwards. We work to preserve the best, but just as often, we need to start again or tear down and build new. Sometimes we need to hold on and sometimes we need to let go. May we have the grace to make wise decisions.

The Shoreham Hotel, one of the oldest in Ocean City, received a face-lift during the 2009-2010 off-season. With the freshened facade, the hotel should be good to go for another 25 years, at least. Classic buildings like the Shoreham are welcome sights along the Boardwalk.

Work in progress at the Shoreham Hotel, earlier this Spring.

Work in progress on the Shoreham Hotel this Spring.

A job well done at the Shoreham Hotel.

Shenanigan’s Irish Pub and Grille, on the ground floor of the hotel, has a beautiful new, green-and-white Boardwalk sign, replacing the aging one that toppled over in the wind at the end of the 2009 season. The outdoor portion of the restaurant has bright new paint. Shenanigan’s projects a family-friendly atmosphere, and far as I know, Shenanigan’s is the only place in Ocean City that offers Irish music on a regular basis.

But while community-spirited owners of private property, such as the Shoreham, make wise and expensive investments to enhance Ocean City’s family atmosphere, I feel a sense of sliding backwards in public decisions.

Here’s a list of recent decisions that make me wonder if Ocean City is moving forward:

Hooters on the Boardwalk. Three of Ocean City’s formerly respected civic organizations have agreed to rent their 5th Street property to Hooters. I remember when the site was a bingo parlor, raising money for the Fire Department. Hooters will be a large restaurant and bar, with plenty of outdoor dining, and Hooters girls, on the Boardwalk. Where are the motorcycles going to park?  You can thank the Lions Club, Ocean City Volunteer Fire Department, and American Legion.

Slot machines but no harness racing at Ocean Downs. There’ll be no racing at Ocean Downs this summer, except for a token, one-day run. We’ll have slots for sure, probably by fall. But there’s no guarantee that racing will return. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

The Route 50 Bridge. The Ocean City Town Council and the Worcester County Commissioners have been uncooperative with State Highway Department personnel in planning for a new Route 50 Bridge, to be built 20 or more years in the future. Council members and commissioners like the old bridge. It’s quaint. It’s also inadequate, obsolescent, and 68 years old, built during World War II. In 20 years the bridge will be 88 years old. Is it forward-looking to imagine that traffic into Ocean City will not increase in the next two decades? Is that what town and county leaders want?

The Ocean City Airport. The Town Council decided NOT to lengthen the runway at the Ocean City Airport, which happens to be celebrating its 50th anniversary this month. The council decided not to extend the runway, but to shorten it. (It took the council almost a decade to reach that decision.) Is it reasonable to imagine that demand for air travel to Ocean City will not increase significantly in the next two decades? Is this decision forward-looking?

Recycling. The Town Council has decided to discontinue all town recycling efforts. Instead, Ocean City will send all its trash to Pennsylvania, where glass and metals will be removed. The rest of the trash will be incinerated. (The product of incineration, BTW, is air pollution.)  What can I say about this one, that hasn’t already been said?

Some would argue that Hooters on the Boardwalk at 5th Street is no different than Shenanigan’s on the Boardwalk at 4th Street. Some would say that slots are no different than bingo. You will be able to see the difference on the Boardwalk in the summer. We can only hope that the town doesn’t cut the police budget, or the number of officers on patrol.

Individually, none of the above decisions is necessarily wrong. But taken together, it’s a trend that’s not positive or forward-looking.  Just my opinion.

— John Hayden