OCEAN CITY — Plans for a new public boat ramp in Ocean City got a much-needed fiscal shot in the arm last week when Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials told local legislators the governor’s proposed budget includes over $800,000 in state matching funds for the project.
After years of wrestling with an outdated and over-utilized public boat ramp in a residential area in the 94th Street area in Little Salisbury, resort officials last summer identified a new location for a second public ramp in Ocean City proper at a newly-acquired piece of property between 64th and 65th streets. The location is on the site of the old Slide and Ride property adjacent to the town’s Public Works facility acquired by the resort a few years back.
Late last summer, Ocean City officials sent a letter to its representatives in Annapolis seeking state funding assistance for the project estimated to cost over $4 million. The town was seeking $1 million in state funds to help pay for the dredging of a navigable channel and other improvements including parking and restroom facilities.
When the Lower Shore’s delegation met with DNR officials last week to discuss a wide variety of topics, they learned Gov. Martin O’Malley had included over $800,000 in Waterway Improvement funds dedicated to the new boat ramp in Ocean City. In addition, the governor’s budget includes state funding for bathhouse improvements on Assateague.
“The biggest items for our area included upgrades to the bathhouses on Assateague and a project to support the proposed new Ocean City boat ramp at 64th Street,” said Delegate Mike McDermott (R-38B) this week. “These projects would represent several million dollars’ worth of improvements.”
Sen. Jim Mathias (D-38) said the inclusion of state funding for the new Ocean City boat ramp at 64th Street was borne out of the letter sent to the DNR and state.
“We received a letter from the Mayor and Council in late summer or early fall illustrating how vital boating and water sports are to the resort economy,” he said. “The letter also reminded us of the challenges of the Little Salisbury ramp.”
The town’s letter requesting state financial assistance with the project illustrated the importance of improved boating access to the resort and, in turn, to the state economy.
“As the popularity of boating has grown, the heavy ramp traffic has become extremely disruptive to the community and the narrow access road, single-ramp lane and lack of parking makes it very difficult for boaters to use,” the town’s letter to state lawmakers read. “Abundant and safe access to the waters around Ocean City is important for the continued growth of the tourism economy within the state.”
The letter also pointed out improved riparian access in Ocean City was clearly identified as a priority in state and local planning documents.
“When Ocean City initially discussed this location with the DNR Boating Administration, the use of Waterway Improvement Funds was identified as a very likely funding source to help with the cost of the need dredging and site work to make the ramp a reality,” the letter read. “The need for improved water access in Ocean City and the coastal bays was identified in the Coastal Bays Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan and in the Ocean City Comprehensive Plan.”
While the initial funding allocation came up a little short, the fact the project made the short list was praised by Mathias, who worked with Delegate Norm Conway (D-38B) on securing the state money.
“Chairman [Norman] Conway and I have respectfully worked with the DNR to get funding in the fiscal year 2013 budget for the new Ocean City boat ramp at 64th Street,” he said. “They were asking for up to $1 million and I think there is slightly more than $800,000 in the proposed budget for the project.”