OCEAN CITY – In just a couple of weeks, the Mayor and City Council will vote to pass an emergency ordinance to allow skateboarding on the Boardwalk.
At the conclusion of Monday’s Mayor and City Council meeting, Councilman Doug Cymek brought up the topic of legalizing skateboarding on the Boardwalk in Ocean City that hadn’t been publically spoken of by city officials in a couple of months.
The idea to legalize skateboarding came up in July when a brief ban took place on the use of body boards on Ocean City’s beaches but was quickly lifted when city officials realized the town code was formed in 1972 and a simple fix would be to modernize the language within the law.
The Mayor and City Council voted to change the law and the definition of “boogie” board was replaced with a “soft top body board”, which is now described as a flexible semi-soft, buoyant, semi-curved object, no longer than 54 inches long, no wider than two feet, not thicker than four inches.
Following the vote, Jenny Carven, co-owner of Ish Boutique, pointed out to the Mayor and City Council that the town has other regulations related to extracurricular activities that also need to be changed to keep up with modern day society, in particular the limitations in surfing locations and skateboarding being illegal in Ocean City.
Just a couple weeks later, the council brought up the issue voluntarily at the conclusion of a Mayor and City Council meeting and tasked City Manager David Recor to meet with Chief of Police Bernadette DiPino and “experts” on skateboards, such as local surf and skate shop managers, to come up with a recommendation in making a change to the current law that bans skateboards from the city’s streets.
Ocean City’s law regarding skateboards is that it is unlawful for any person to ride, propel push or otherwise operate a skateboard on the Boardwalk or any ramps, railings or benches adjoining thereto at any time.
Additionally, it is unlawful for any person to ride, propel, push or otherwise operate a skateboard on any public street, public way, public alley, public sidewalk, public lots and other public property (except for public skateboard facilities and publicly sponsored or authorized skateboard events) within the corporate limits of Ocean City between April 1 and Oct. 1 of each year.
“I would like to make a motion that we make an initial and immediate change to … our city code as it relates to the operation of skateboards on the Boardwalk,” Cymek said this week. “What I would ask the entire council is to support me in allowing skateboards to be operated consistent with the current hours that bicycles are operated.”
Bicycling on the Boardwalk is currently allowed from Saturday of Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, between 2 a.m. to 11 a.m., and from Tuesday after Labor Day through Friday before Memorial Day, at any time except for during Springfest and Sunfest, which is Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 2 a.m. and 12 p.m.
Cymek said other issues, such as the size of skateboards, vandalism and safety precautions, can be further defined at a future work session.
The motion is strictly for allowing skateboards to be used for transportation on the Boardwalk, not to be used for “performers” or tricks.
“This is something that we can immediately do to send a good message that we are trying to work with the citizens of Ocean City … I think it is worth a try,” Cymek said.
Mayor Rick Meehan informed the council that he and Recor have been working with local surf shops on defining the type and size of skateboards to allow on the city streets and Boardwalk and that information will be brought forward in a future work session. In the meantime, he agreed with Cymek in allowing skateboarding on the Boardwalk.
“This would be a great time to try it because it is the off-season and it will allow us an opportunity to see how it will work before the season is upon us,” he said.
Councilman Brent Ashley was quick to point out that the town’s law currently prohibits skateboarders from vandalizing town property by doing tricks but it is still being done.
“You may be opening Pandora’s box here,” he said.
Council President Jim Hall saw no problem in giving skateboarders the opportunity to prove themselves in being responsible.
“Let it run through the winter, we’ll take a look at it next spring. If it was abused and really dangerous than we can change it,” he said. “Give it a shot especially for the transportation issue … its safer to skateboard down the Boardwalk than on Philadelphia Ave.”
Councilwoman Mary Knight reminded council members that they do not only represent citizens 50 years old and older but also of the younger generation and families in town.
“Skateboarding is a lot healthier than playing every game on the Internet, so we have to keep that in mind that we really do have to start legislating for every generation … this is a great first step,” she said.
The council voted 6-1, with Ashley opposed, to approve an ordinance to be formed allowing skateboarding on the Boardwalk in means of transportation during the same hours of operating a bicycle.
The ordinance will come to the council in first reading on Oct. 1 and upon being passed the mayor will be asked to pass as an emergency ordinance to skip second reading and be enacted immediately.
This month there has been a petition circulating via the Internet titled, “Mayor and City Council: Legalize Skateboarding in Ocean City, Maryland”, and can be found on change.org. As of Tuesday, the petition was up to 268 signatures.
Following the Mayor and City Council meeting on Monday, the founder of the petition, Mick Chester, sent out an update regarding the petition effort.
“Great news, tonight we are that much closer on legalizing skateboarding in Ocean City, Md. … This is a huge step and this petition helped out greatly. I would like to thank everyone for your support. Please continue to share this and have your friends sign it. We still have more work ahead of us,” Chester wrote.