OCEAN CITY – The proposal to extend horse and carriage rides downtown from only during the off-season to throughout the busy summer season is under review by the city.
Randy Davis of R and B Ranch located in Salisbury came before the Police Commission on Monday morning to request permission to provide a horse and carriage ride service in downtown Ocean City during the summer season.
Davis’s proposed route starts on 2nd Street and the Boardwalk between the Plim Plaza and Ocean Gallery, moving west the carriage would cross two main intersections on the highway where traffic lights are located toward Chicago Ave., take Chicago Ave. along the bayside north to 4th Street, turn right on 4th Street, and turn right again on St. Louis Ave. to go south, and cross the highway again at 2nd Street to return to the starting point on the Boardwalk.
Davis asked to use a maximum of three carriages when needed and to operate the service from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. during the week with Fridays and Saturdays off.
“Staff comments are not in favor of your request,” Police Commission Chair and Councilman Doug Cymek said. “There is a lot of concern for your safety and the horse crossing the intersections.”
Davis explained the carriages used are standard carriages wrapped in Christmas lights and are equipped with the standard orange caution signage and four-way flashing lights.
“You can’t miss it,” he said. “I have been driving on the streets for many years. The whole key to this is crossing at the two [traffic] lights … if I didn’t think I couldn’t do it safely, I wouldn’t do it, and if this was approved and I still couldn’t do it safely, I would quit because it isn’t worth it.”
Council President Lloyd Martin pointed out 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. is the busiest time of day in that area.
“Every day is like a holiday, especially when summer is in full swing. There is too much congestion already,” Martin said.
Davis asserted he has been providing the same horse and carriage rides in downtown Berlin for the past five years without problems.
“A lot of people don’t think of Berlin of being busy but this will probably be easier for me than in Berlin. The reasons being the streets in Ocean City are normal size and in Berlin the streets are narrow, and when you go down Main Street you better be on your p’s and q’s. They have parked cars and narrow streets … you really have to be on it,” Davis said.
Police Chief Ross Buzzuro explained it is not so much Davis the department is concerned over, it is the general public.
“We are making a lot of strides in public safety and reducing accidents but we are not where we want to be,” Buzzuro said. “You may be as safe as you possibly can but we are reminded of the general public and how to keep you safe. That is the variable that we can’t control.”
Mayor Rick Meehan supported Davis’s request as far as providing another activity for Ocean City’s residents and visitors.
“At the same time, I can understand what the chief is saying, we don’t want to put any extra burden on the police department,” the mayor said. “Is there a way we can make this work or allow him an opportunity to try it?”
Davis furthered when he first started providing horse and carriage rides in Ocean City it was not his intention to provide the service during the summer but he has received an abundance of requests for the service during the summer.
In September of 2012, Davis was approved to provide horse and carriage rides in the downtown area during the off-season and has done so since without any issues, primarily on the weekends.
“I think the carriage rides are a great asset to the town but at some point in time I think we need to look at franchising it because he is asking to conduct business on city roads, and where does that stop? It needs to be formalized so that it can be regulated,” Councilman Dennis Dare said.
Meehan agreed eventually the town will have to conduct a Request for Proposal [RFP] to have different horse and carriage ride services bid on the operation conducted in Ocean City.
“If we allow him to do this on a trial basis, it would establish if in fact there is a value to this, and if it is something that is viable before we go to RFP … like he said if there are any problems, he would probably be the first to say it doesn’t work,” the mayor said.
Cymek asked the police department to return to the commission with statistical information of past collisions or accidents or a site survey on the two intersections involved in the proposed route.
The remainder of the commission was in consensus with Cymek’s request. Davis will return to the commission next month for further discussion.