Friday, July 13 – Website Launched To Expand Effort To Preserve Trimper’s

OCEAN CITY – The ongoing effort to find a way to keep Trimper’s Rides in business went high tech this week when the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA) launched a website encouraging viewers to participate in a two-prong approach to preserve the Boardwalk landmark.

Faced with soaring property tax increases following the most recent assessment of the historic site at the foot of the Boardwalk, the family-owned and operated company is considering closing the park after 117 years, or at least scaling it back considerably from its current configuration, at the end of this year. Countless letters to the editor have been sent to local and regional newspapers in the months following the announcement this spring and hundreds more have expressed their disappointment on community forums and blogs, but there has not been a unified, one-stop place for nostalgic fans of the park to voice their opinions and reach out to their elected officials until the OCHMRA launched the new website, which was designed by D3Corp.

Aptly called, the website sponsored by the local trade organization with the blessing of the Trimper family offers a two-prong approach for the public to get involved in the effort to save the park.

For example, one link, simply called “Help Save a Landmark,” connects website visitors to the elected officials who could have a role in finding a solution, from the Ocean City Mayor and Council to the Worcester County Commissioners and from Senator Lowell Stoltzfus and Delegates Norm Conway and Jim Mathias to Governor Martin O’Malley.

Another link provides website visitors the opportunity to share their favorite story or memory about Trimper’s Rides. The intent is to let the decision makers know just how much the park means to generations of Marylanders and visitors from all over the country, according to OCHMRA Executive Director Susan Jones.

“It’s a grassroots effort to encourage the public to get involved in finding a solution to this,” she said. “They can appeal directly to their elected officials through e-mail addresses and phone numbers, and they can share their memories with others who feel the same way about Trimper’s.”

Jones said the idea for creating the website was borne out of the outpouring of public sentiment about the park since the family announced it might be forced to close or at least scale back the landmark and, so far, it appears to be achieving the desired results. In the two days after the website was launched on Monday, hundreds of memories and favorite stories were posted on the site.

“We’ve gotten over 200 stories in two days,” said Jones. “It’s amazing. I didn’t anticipate the response this would get.”

The “share your stories” section is already filling up with entries posted from all over the country and the message is consistent throughout. For example, one submitter wrote, “Trimper’s and Ocean City are synonymous. It would be difficult to imagine one without the other. Much worse, it would be difficult to enjoy America’s favorite beach resort without the landmark institution that has given great joy to so many for generations.”

Another entry commiserates with the plight of the Trimper family as they struggle to meet their tax burden and save the park.

“I was shocked and saddened to see that Trimper’s may be a thing of the past,” it reads. “Our family has owned a nearby house for over 40 years, and since it is not our principal residence, they are taxing us out of existence. If you schedule a ‘tea party’ on the docks, I’m sure you will get a large crowd.”

The website also includes several facts and figures which illustrate just how dire the situation has become at Trimper’s. For example, the property tax assessment increased by 163 percent from 2004 to 2007, from $29 million to nearly $80 million. As a result, taxes on the property increased from $387,000 in 2004 to a staggering $914,000 this year. The site points out the tax bill increased more than last year’s profit, according to company Vice President Doug Trimper.

“We’re competing with the government,” he said. “I wish my problem was competing with Jolly Roger. We’re not going out of business because of another amusement, we’re going out of business because of the government.”

Trimper’s officials have appealed the most recent reassessment of the property with the State Department of Assessment and Taxation (SDAT), but the process is a complicated one and no definitive answer will likely be handed down for weeks or even months. In the meantime, the Trimper’s hierarchy has appealed to local, county and state officials to intercede on some level and find a way to preserve the historic park enjoyed by generations of visitors and residents for over a century.

While most agree somehow saving the park is paramount, there is not a clear solution. During a visit to the park two weeks ago, Governor Martin O’Malley suggested Trimper’s be protected as a historic site, which would require it remain in its current state in perpetuity, but would provide relief from soaring taxes because it would be assessed as what it is and not what it could become in the future.