OCEAN CITY – The new year may bring the opportunity to adopt your own beach in Ocean City in exchange for four dedicated clean-ups a year.
During the Dec. 8 Police Commission meeting, Terry Steimer of the Ocean City Surf Club (OCSC) proposed an Adopt-Your-Beach Program.
Steimer submitted the OCSC is a grass roots 501c(3) organization fueled by volunteers focused on protecting and maintaining Ocean City’s beaches, and the Adopt-Your-Beach program has evolved from this idea.
“The reason for this is two-fold. One is I have run the ‘Leave Only Your Footprints’ campaign for the last eight years. It is a great campaign. It took off and did well but after eight years I think it has gotten stale, so this is a new initiative that is good for the town, good for us [OCSC], and it is good for the people who use the beach,” Steimer said. “Two is, I grew up here and I see when families come here they use the same beach over and over. They raise their family on the same beach for generations … because that is the beach they are used to coming to.”
The Adopt-Your-Beach program is a beach clean-up effort utilizing volunteers that would be monitored by an Adopt-Your-Beach Committee. All debris found would be recorded by provided forms, so that data can be collected on the types of trash being found in certain areas of the beach.
For a $200 donation to OCSC, one to three blocks of beach can be adopted by individuals, businesses and groups who will clean their area of the beach at least four times a year. Ideally the group will also conduct additional beach clean-ups as the need arises. This is an opportunity for them to be vested in their beach.
The $200 donation will cover costs for trash bags provided to the “adoptees”, as well as signage that will display the adoptees name and t-shirts.
However, Steimer stressed the program is not an advertising opportunity. It is only for those who are serious about keeping their beach clean.
“We will stress they must be sensitive to the dunes as they are a protected area with no individual allowed on the dunes without the permission of the Mayor and City County. We will coordinate our efforts with the dune clean-up group taking care of the dunes at the present time,” the proposal stated.
Police Commission Chair and Councilman Doug Cymek asked what kind of debris will be targeted for pick-up and during what time periods.
Steimer, who works on the Department of Public Works beach cleaning crew, acknowledged city staff keeps the beach in pristine condition but there is always some kind of trash that gets left behind, such as cigarette butts and bottle caps, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a helping hand. Also the volunteers can clean the beach all year-round as long as it’s on four separate occasions.
Mayor Rick Meehan expressed concern over letting the “Leave Only Your Footprints” campaign go to the wayside.
“That [Leave Only Your Footprints] is a daily reminder to everybody to pick up after themselves, so I don’t think you want to abandon that but to have a volunteer program such as this [Adopt-Your-Beach] could be a good thing,” the mayor said.
Meehan also raised concern over the new program getting lost in the new smoke-free initiative that is likely to hit Ocean City’s beaches this summer. The council is scheduled to consider the specifics of an ordinance eliminating cigarettes from the beach and potentially the Boardwalk after the New Year.
“We are doing the smoke-free beach initiative this year and that in itself is going to require a lot of new signage and education … I don’t want this to get lost in the shuffle,” the mayor said.
“It might be beneficial for you to put it off a year, so it gives you your own thunder kicking this program off. That is what you’re going to need to get people to buy into this,” he said.
Public Works Deputy Director John VanFossen pointed out currently the town cleans the beaches every night during the summer season and as calls are received in the off-season to remove debris.
VanFossen stated it could be beneficial to include the dune area and recommended the program be intertwined with the Dune Committee.
“If they go out in the middle of the summer when the beach is packed with people … I picture them more towards the west side of the beach cleaning closer to the dune. I think they would be best suited to clean the dunes, the heads of the streets, the dune crossings, before they actually get on the beach may be more effective,” he said. “The idea we think is good. It is just initiating it and putting it all together.”
Meehan didn’t want to see the commission over think the proposed initiative.
“I think it is a great volunteer program,” the mayor said, as he recommended Steimer look to the Delmarva Condominium Managers Association for a start in enlisting. “That may be a great way to start this program and get people involved. My only thought is maybe get it a little bit more organized and wait until after the smoke-free initiative because you don’t want to get them confused.”
The commission is looking forward to having Steimer return this summer with a more refined plan and for possible implementation of the Adopt-Your-Beach program in the fall season.