OCEAN CITY – The opportunity to purchase replacement beach playground equipment was brought before the Mayor and City Council Monday and was approved with delivery expected this summer.
Ocean City Recreation and Parks Director Susan Petito explained, as part of the Town’s Strategic Plan, the evaluation and recommendation of play equipment for the beach was identified as a High Management priority. Factors to be considered in the evaluation included playground safety compliancy, practicality of installation and removal from the beach, expected use, misuse practices and liability exposure.
In April of 2013, the Recreation and Parks Commission agreed to not have the wooden playground structures, referred to as beach toys, return to the beach off the Boardwalk that summer once staff brought to the elected officials’ attention how the structures have become safety hazards as well as a nuisance with late-night shenanigans.
Once that decision was finalized, many residents and visitors voiced concerns over not having the playgrounds on the beach as they have become a tradition along the Boardwalk for young visitors.
The beach toys that once stood on the beach were all purchased and donated by local businesses. At that time, Bill Gibbs, owner of the Dough Roller Restaurants, pointed out several Boardwalk businesses were potential donors but questioned the town’s contribution. Mayor Rick Meehan felt there was some way for the town to match the money raised by donors to serve as some sort of leverage for property owner interest in bringing beach toys back.
With the town just going through a stringent budget process, the question remained how exactly the replacement beach toys would be funded.
During the Recreation and Parks Commission meeting in May of 2013, former Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster presented a list of 13 replacement options ranging in the price from $5,900 to $50,000.
The commission directed staff to cut down the list to potential boulder playground equipment to present to the Mayor and City Council, along with a list of interested donors, costs and turnaround time of the different products.
This week Petito brought forward the opportunity to purchase a dinosaur play structure that meets all of the requirements mandated by Public Works, Risk Management, Engineering and Parks.
The play structures are available to the town for purchase at half the list price, which is $16,480 with a free delivery.
“We can get it delivered this summer, which is pretty amazing because usually there would be at least a minimum of a 12-week lead to get this done,” Petito said. “The reason that we can get it done is because the playground representative already has this product. The reason he is giving it to us for such a good price is because he has it stored outside on his property.”
According to Petito, placement of the structure seems most ideal at 3rd Street on the beach near the wooden walkway.
“Having contact with some of the Boardwalk members who had supported this project in the past I don’t have any guaranteed dollar figure that they will be willing to contribute toward purchasing this but there has been some positive interest and some willingness to provide some kind of funding to bring this piece of equipment to the beach,” she said.
Councilman Joe Mitrecic acknowledged the hard work put in by staff to track down compliant beach play equipment, which has been missed by the local and visiting community.
“This is probably the most exciting of the available items that we could put out there to be honest with you,” said Mitrecic, who serves as chair of the Recreation and Parks Commission, and has reviewed the other options in the past. “I have been assured by the Boardwalk business owners that there will be money from them forthcoming.”
Mitrecic added during budget sessions the Mayor and City Council chose not to fund the assistant recreation and parks director position leaving available money in the department’s budget to make the purchase.
The council voted unanimously to approve the purchase of the beach playground equipment to be delivered to the beach this summer with Recreation and Parks, Public Works and Engineering staff figuring out the best placement.
“I know it was difficult finding the right piece of playground equipment, and I think this will bring a lot of attention to the beach, and be extremely popular that will probably initiate other people in wanting to become involved and help us fund additional types of beach equipment similar to this,” Meehan said.