OCEAN CITY – After concerns have arose over a hectic schedule of events this June, city officials have a close eye on new events being proposed during Ocean City’s busy summer season.
Event organizers Corey Davis and Dave Speier came before the Mayor and City Council on Monday to present a new event called Swim OC. The event is an ocean swim competition with three different lengths — one mile, three miles and nine miles — proposed to be held on July 20 this summer to raise funds for Johns Hopkins Brain Trauma Research.
A few issues regarding the event were noted. The total cost to the town will be around $1,800, which involves additional EMS and Beach Patrol staffing that was requested to support the safety of the event.
Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) Captain Butch Arbin submitted the department had agreed to assist with safety and will provide the normal Surf Rescue Technicians (SRTs) on duty as well as schedule additional staff.
Arbin’s concerns were over water temperature for those planning on the long swim and hypothermia. Also, with the organizer’s ability to provide, place and secure the number of buoys that is planned, and the ability to determine and verify the criteria used to determine eligibility to enter the longer races.
Speier said the event organizers have experience with swimming events as he has organized the Nanticoke River Swim for the past six years, and another organizer, Tracy McNeil, has helped set up pre-qualifications to enter the swim as she is an English Channel swimmer herself.
Speier pointed out the Swim OC plans to bring at least 250 participants to Ocean City, resulting in an economic impact by sleeping in hotels, eating in restaurants and paying to park.
“We think it is a great event for the town,’ he said. “The organizers are local … and it is for a good cause.”
Although the swim is dedicated to a noble cause, Councilman Dennis Dare shared his concern over the proposed date.
“July 20 is the peak of our season and as I read through your detailed request you are making a lot of requests of the city’s beach patrol and EMS,” he said. “This is a Saturday in July at our peak time and to suggest that we bring extra EMT and extra lifeguards to monitor this swim for 250 participants when they have 250,000 people on the beach that they need to monitor.”
Dare suggested to remand the event to the newly reinstated Recreation and Parks Commission to hammer out the concerns as well as explore a different date, such as in September when the water is warmer and hotel rates are less.
“This will be a great event in Ocean City, but I think the timing is wrong,” Council President Lloyd Martin said. “I know that our beach patrol has a ‘can’do’ attitude. If you want them to do it and we ask them to do, they are going to do it but there is a cost to that.”
Councilwoman Mary Knight didn’t want the council to look like the bad guys and reassured the event organizers they were not rejected it, simply asking them to consider holding Swim OC at another time.
“We are not saying no, it is such a worthy cause, and I personally appreciate you here to discuss it with us,” she said.
Arbin approached the Mayor and City Council to explain there are issues with holding such an event in September like surf conditions as hurricane season approaches and a decrease in personnel.
“The July 20 date, although it is in the middle of the season, we are at maximum force at that time,” he said. “So we have more stands on the beach, more people available to assist in a swim like that … the way we see it is at 10 o’clock guards are in the stands, we are already used to protecting 250,000 people anyway, having 250 quality swimmers swim by is not a problem for us.”
Councilman Brent Ashley took Arbin’s word for it and made a motion to approve the event, and a second followed by Councilwoman Margaret Pillas.
“There are more eyes on you in July. I don’t see a problem with it,” Pillas said. “It brings people to town, it is an event just starting and will probably grow, and I think it is a very worthwhile thing to do.”
The motion to approve Swim OC failed in a vote of 2-5 with only Ashley and Pillas in favor.
Councilman Doug Cymek made a motion to remand the Swim OC event to the Recreation and Parks Committee to work out the date and other concerns. The motion was approve in a vote of 6-1 with Ashley in opposition.
“Obviously, it is a worthy event for a good cause and I would like to see it happen,” Cymek said.
The event will be scheduled to be discussed at the Recreation and Parks Committee next meeting on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Northside Park.