The proposed expansion and major facelift of the 4th Street park in Ocean City has been placed on hold because the county and city can’t come to terms on a long-term lease agreement needed to secure financing for what could be a beautiful project.
This situation needs to be worked out because there’s a chance to address what has become a bit of an eyesore in recent years. The plan designed by city officials includes expanding the popular skate park, merging the essentially independent east and west parks into one with either an elevated walkway or innovative crosswalk, maintaining parking, eliminating the old, rarely used baseball fields, adding a prominent gazebo, improving the basketball courts, providing better kids amenities, building a green space in the center of the skate park and slowing traffic in the immediate vicinity.
All of these possibilities have been derailed because the county is only offering the city a 15-year lease on the property, which is located between the bay and Philadelphia Ave. and 3rd and 4th streets and currently home to ball fields, a skate park, a basketball court, a fishing dock and playground area. The city needs a 20-year lease for the property to lock in the financing necessary for the $3.75 million recreational complex. The county knew the lease it offered would kill the $3.75 million project because it could not be included in a bond.
In the hopes of trying to keep the project on life support, Mayor Rick Meehan suggested the city send another letter to the County Commissioner, requesting the county deed the land to the city. This is not unprecedented. It was reported last week the 14th Street property currently home to the library was deeded to the county by the city until its sole purpose was no longer a library. Once the library moves up to 100th Street, the land will revert back to the city.
The city is wise to pursue this option. It’s a shame the county would not simply okay a 20-year lease. It’s unknown why officials in Snow Hill were so adamant about it only being 15 years. Nonetheless, the county needs to acknowledge the significant improvements this new park will bring to Ocean City and simply deed the property over to the city. It’s an easy decision. The advantageous opportunity to add a little bit of beauty while improving the amenities in Ocean City can neither be ignored nor complicated over simple matters that could easily be addressed.