OCEAN CITY – State and federal officials last week announced part of the jetty along the south side of the Ocean City Inlet adjacent to the north end of Assateague Island will be closed to foot traffic over concerns about the safety of the structure.
Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) last week announced the eastern third of the South Jetty that juts out into the Inlet seaward of “the hump” will no longer be open to foot traffic. The section of jetty for years has been a popular spot for surf anglers, tourists and curiosity seekers, but a spate of accidents and near misses just in the last year alone forced state and federal officials to take a closer look at the safety of the structure.
According to NRP officials, there were several incidents last year when individuals were swept off the jetty and into the water. In most cases, those individuals were able to climb back onto the jetty without assistance, but those incidents along with steadily increased activity in the dangerous area prompted a meeting with the federal Army Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service, the Coast Guard and the NRP. It was then decided to close the easternmost third of the jetty.
Unlike the western portion of the South Jetty, which will remain open to the public, the eastern end does not have a flat walking surface and is prone to tidal surges that often cover the rocks with waves. When someone falls or is swept off the jetty by waves, a rescue would be extremely risky and difficult. The eastern portion of the jetty has rocks in the water, which would inhibit a response and rescue effort by boat.
The surface of the closed section is rocky, cavity-ridden, uneven and slippery, which would inhibit a rescue effort by land. The section of the jetty that remains open to foot traffic has flat, secure walking surfaces and provides better access by emergency personnel in the event of an incident. The western portion of the jetty remains open to foot traffic and anglers may access all of the areas around the jetty by boat.
While NRP officials just last week made the formal announcement of the closure, the eastern end of the jetty was officially closed to foot traffic on Jan. 1. According to NRP officials, signs marked in English, Spanish and Korean will be posted near the closure area when weather permits.
Meanwhile, no similar action has been taken on the jetty on the north side of the Inlet adjacent to Ocean City, which is a popular spot for anglers, tourists and beachgoers. Although the north side jetty is prone to the same tidal action and heavy waves, the surface for the most part is flat and fairly safe.