Grassroots Effort Seeks Tweak To Skateboard, Surfing Beach Laws
OCEAN CITY – Modernizing the town’s law regarding the use of body boards on the beach last week was viewed as one step forward by the younger generation in town as residents look to organize and return to City Hall later this year to address other archaic laws prohibiting skateboarding and restricting surfer access.
“We just want to bring back the beach town that we all grew up in,” said Jenny Carven, co-owner of Ish Boutique. “The beater [body board] ban was just the icing on the cake. We need to pay attention and let them [Mayor and City Council] know how we feel about certain things rather than just letting it go until it’s too late.”
Last week the Mayor and City Council put concerns to rest over a “boogie” board ban that took place a couple of weeks ago. The ban was lifted a day later when city officials realized the town code was formed in 1972 and a simple fix would be to modernize the language within the law.
The ban took effect after numerous complaints were received about the increased use of large body boards and their perceived threat on the safety of the general public in the ocean. At the time, the use of “boogie” boards was defined in the town code as a semi‐soft, buoyant, semicurved object, no more than 42 inches long, 24 inches wide and four inches thick, were permitted on Ocean City beaches in non‐designated surfing areas.
Since 1972, “boogie” boards have evolved into several new body board styles that are similarly constructed except that they are manufactured in a variety of lengths ranging from 44 inches to more than 72 inches.
The Mayor and City Council voted to change the law and the definition of “boogie” board was replaced with a “soft top body board”, which is now described as a flexible semi-soft, buoyant, semi-curved object, no longer than 54 inches long, no wider than two feet, not thicker than four inches.
Council chambers was filled to capacity during the discussion but there were no public comments. Once the vote was taken, the room emptied out but Carven stayed behind to voice similar concerns.
Carven pointed out that the town has other regulations related to extracurricular activities that also need to be changed to keep up with modern day society, in particular the limitations in surfing locations and skateboarding being illegal in Ocean City.
Currently, there are three surfing locations in Ocean City during the summer time, Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. It is allowed at the Inlet during the week while lifeguards are on duty, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. The town also provides two surfing locations, one block in length, on the north and south end of town seven days a week, which rotate two blocks to the south each day. Surfing locations are closed on holidays that fall on a weekday during this time.
Carven pointed out that interest in water-related activities is at an all-time high for locals and visitors alike and as the trend increases the surfing locations are becoming dangerously over crowded.
“I strongly think that a two-block minimum for a surf beach should be taken into consideration, let alone more surf beaches,” Carven said last week. “There is no way around it, it is a dangerous issue that should be considered by the City Council to work with the younger generation that is coming forward that want to be part of it.”
Skateboarding is also refined to one area within town limits, the skateboard park at 3rd Street and St. Louis Ave. Skateboarding is not permitted on the Boardwalk, public streets, alleys, sidewalks and public lots.
“I understand the safety but again between kids riding a skate board or being out in the water surfing … its being a part of extracurricular activities and it is much safer than being a part of something else,” Carven said. “Not being part of a sport or something that they love, then they are going to get in trouble.”
Councilman Joe Hall agreed with Carven and suggested for her to form an organized committee to come back before the Mayor and City Council with a presentation and suggestions.
“Just as body boards and the dimensions of those have changed the dimensions of skate boards have changed as well,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “Today there are also long boards that are used just for transportation and are not used for destructive behavior, not that they are intentionally destructive … if we look at that just as we looked at the length and dimensions of the body boards, there might be some compromises in there as well.”
This week Carven reported that a committee is being formed as well as a new Facebook page, Voices of Ocean City, is in the works.
“Everyone that I have talked to, young or old, I have said the goal is to work together not against each other,” Carven said. “We want to work together with the City Council, the beach patrol, and the police department, to bring our community together as a whole rather than anyone being against each other.”Carven furthered that the most important thing is to address regulations that were made in the past.
“We need to voice how we feel about it and how we can help change them so it can be beneficial for everyone but yet still safe,” she said.
Carven said the long term goal would be to have the skateboarding regulations lifted so that skateboards could be used for transportation if nothing else as well as modify the surf regulations.
“That is a whole issue in itself that needs to be readdressed because the interest and the trend has increased therefore the safety also needs to be considered because there is so many more people in the water doing it,” she said.
With the busy summer season in full swing, Carven said the goal is to come before the council with an organized presentation in the fall months.