Private Industry Help Sought To Tame Car Event’s Spectator Concerns

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OCEAN CITY – Cruisin’ promoters and Ocean City officials plan to place a greater importance on working with the business community to address concerns about destructive behavior during the twice annual events.

Last month the Ocean City Police Commission began a preliminary discussion regarding concerns over the popular Cruisin’ event that occurs in Ocean City in May and October.

Following a busy Cruisin’ event this past May, Ocean City residents vented on social media and in the media’s letters to the editor section their frustrations over massive traffic backups, infrastructure damage to roads caused by the thousands of classic cars in town spinning out and the massive amounts of litter left behind by irresponsible visitors.

Following Cruisin’ weekend, event producers Bob Rothermel and Jack Hennen met with Mayor Rick Meehan and City Manager David Recor to address the concerns.

During last month’s commission meeting, Recor confirmed the meeting took place and the officials acknowledged how the event has changed over the years and actions can be taken next year to make it better. Although events are held in the spring and fall in Ocean City, the May event typically brings larger crowds to the area.

Rothermel and Hennen joined the conversation with the Police Commission at Monday’s meeting. According to Hennen, the activity at the event’s two official host venues, the Inlet parking lot and Roland E. Powell Convention Center, was smooth.

“The only thing we noticed was the activity going on, on the highway between the two venues and further north with the amount of traffic on the road and the amount of extracurricular activities that took place on the side of the highway but in terms of the actual events that was run, they went fine,” he said.

Rothermel added the problems occurring are coming along with the success of the event.

“We all know this went from a very small event that has grown to a very significant event for the community and the problem that we have is success because it has brought other spectators to come to see the event,” he said. “The spectator portion has also grown, so when you put that many more people into the community at the same time as the cars it will increase numbers. We had 200 cars our first year and now it is over 3,000 registered cars.”

Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Chief Ross Buzzuro asked if there are any regulations required to be abided by in order to be registered with the event.

Hennen responded regulations are printed on the registration applications, such as cars must be licensed, tagged and insured, as well as excessive speeding, loud noise and spinning wheels will not be tolerated. The regulations are then reiterated on the confirmation letter registrants receive.

Rothermel furthered event staff at both venues are empowered to pull registrations for those not abiding by the rules, and the promoters are in communication with the police department when it comes to any issue.

“I can’t remember when was the last time we had to ask you guys to pull a tag,” OCPD Captain Kevin Kirstein said. “It is usually the spectators that go out on the radios that they are violating ordinances than the actual participants.”

Meehan looked back 25 years ago when Cruisin’ was first introduced to Ocean City hand-in-hand with the first Springfest event to draw more people to the resort in the spring season.

“There was not the same mass of people that are here today. We have built over 5,000 condominiums units since that time period, and now more people are coming earlier in May and staying later in September. We have watched that grow … there were less than 250 cars the first time and people still thought they were everywhere because town was so quiet but the town has grown, the season has expanded and the event has expanded, so now we need to look at what we can do to make the event more compatible with the community that has grown,” the mayor said.

Meehan recognized there are certain businesses and private properties becoming associated with the event for spectators to gather and suggested the police department recommend ordinances to enact in regards to parking lots and alcohol consumption.

“It is time now to look at the bigger picture and let the business community know if this is going to continue to be successful everybody has to play a role and it maybe something they need to do to ensure success into the future,” he said.

Buzzuro reported he has been in contact with the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA) over the matter, specifically security of private property and prohibiting alcoholic beverages in the open.

“Hopefully, we can solve a lot of the issues working with private properties, but we are very limited when it comes to enforcement on private property associated with the event,” Buzzuro said. “The biggest issue is Coastal Highway turning into a speedway, and for us we can pull over folks all day long and cite them but if they’re from out of state the points aren’t transferable so it almost a trophy when you get a moving violation. An hour later they are getting pulled over again because if you have money in your pocket there is no overall fear, and that is what we’re up against. As well as, the height of the jubilation of the spectators egging everyone on combined with the private property issue is a big deal for us in what we are trying to deal with.”

Meehan concluded it is time to have another conversation with the OCHMRA as well as the town’s Planning and Zoning Department to regulate parking lots.

“Certainly we want to work with these events to make sure their successful, number one, as well as compatible with the community,” he said.

Rothermel and Hannon agreed, and conversation will continue with all partners who need to “step up to the plate” to ensure the continued success of the event.