From Nov. 1 to March 30, residents and visitors of Ocean City can now pay a fee to ride horses on the beach. Holly Ridge Farm became the first to score a permit this week, and the public got a chance to see the new offering at work on Wednesday morning.
Prior to this week, we admit having some reservations about the concept and whether it will actually be something people want to do here in the offseason. However, after seeing the ladies riding the horses on the beach this week, we think it’s a worthwhile addition to the town’s numerous things to do.
The issue became a divisive one among the Mayor and Council and it finally passed in a 4-3 vote. Concerns were aired about manure being left behind and whether the permit holders would properly clean up after the horses as they should. Unfortunately, that vote was more of a reflection of the divisive nature of the council than about the merits of the activity.
Clearly, there is a certain charm to watching people riding horses on the beach. Surely, it’s even better to be the one actually riding the horse at the water’s edge. It’s popular in numerous island vacation destinations, and we see no harm in allowing this activity in the offseason months.
It’s no secret around here that the winter seasons are getting worse from a business perspective. Even with this year’s unbelievably mild and dry winter, offseason business has been terrible for just about anyone who manages to keep the doors open. The people are simply not coming here in the offseason.
In some circles, the issue is being chided prematurely because it’s believed it will have no impact on tourism. More than likely, the detractors are correct here.
However, anything that creates a spark in media circles, as horseback riding has unquestionably done over the last few days, is an excellent thing to market. It’s something new and it resulted in Ocean City garnering some attention in metropolitan markets this week that it would not have otherwise.
At a meeting of north Ocean City business owners this week, the idea was floated to allow vehicles to drive on the beach during the offseason in certain areas of town. The idea being most would be driving on to do some surf fishing.
We think this is an excellent idea. The time for outside-the-box thinking is now, and if horseback riding on the beach brings a certain appeal to certain people and encourages them to check out Ocean City for a weekend or a day trip that’s a good thing.
The chances are the fact Ocean City allows horseback riding on the beach is not going to make a huge difference from a tourism standpoint, but it is a value-added attraction for those who are already in town or in the region. In that way, it’s similar to special events, such as the Air Show, Art’s Alive and powerboat races, which alone do not put heads in beds but instead make memories for people who already have picked Ocean City as a destination.
It’s just something else to do.