After spending much time on the Boardwalk in recent weeks, I have one overwhelming observance – Ocean City is hosting a tremendous of day-trippers. That’s a general statement, but it’s impossible to quantify precisely. It’s a common sight these days on the Boardwalk, especially around the Inlet, to see families, typically lugging a day’s worth of necessities, hitting the beach early and in the late afternoon using the public showers on the beach adjacent to the Boardwalk. What they do is they come to the beach early with their coolers, eat the lunch they packed from home, spend the day and around dinnertime shower and change at the street-ends. It’s obvious to the point a father and son were seen over Labor Day weekend holding up towels so two girls and the mother could change into clothes. Being the nosy type, I watched as the father then packed up the beach items in the vehicle, which was parked in one of the coveted spots on the oceanblock, and the family went south on the Boardwalk. It’s most likely the family I observed is from the surrounding area and not coming from points far away. Nonetheless, it’s symbolic of what’s happening in Ocean City. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with these families doing what they do, but it speaks to what I have heard some people assert lately. It goes something like, “There sure are a lot of people in Ocean City, how is there a problem with tourism?” There may be people here, but they are not playing a part in sustaining local commerce.
It will be interesting to see how the County Commissioners receive the request to increase the room tax and spend the additional money raised on the destination marketing of Ocean City. Although they are two separate issues, the commissioners’ decision last week to deny, for now, a funding request for the county’s share of the downtown parking garage in Ocean City could be an unfavorable sign. Based on observing these commissioners, my informal prediction is the proposed room tax increase package will pass but it will not be unanimous with at least two commissioners objecting. A point of contention could well be the belief Ocean City will get all the room tax revenue and Worcester County tourism will not. Opponents’ argument could be only Ocean City will reap the benefits of the increase. Of course, that’s a lame claim because the county’s coffers will undoubtedly see the rewards of more people coming to Ocean City. It’s not a coincidence that at a recent meeting one official in Snow Hill made it a point to remind folks it’s the Worcester County room tax, not Ocean City’s.
Ocean City seems poised to shoot down a proposal to bring movies to the beach. At a subcommittee meeting last week, officials from various town departments as well as elected officials raised logistical concerns with the pitch, which is currently seeing success in Wildwood, N.J. Some valid issues were raised, including the location, the promoter selling food and drink competing with Boardwalk merchants, as well as the length of time it would take to set up the movie screen each day and where the equipment would be housed. The concerns have merit, but this should not be taken off the table just yet. The concerts on the beach held weekly during July and August are widely successful, and the movie could be as well. There has to be a way to discuss this further with the promoter and iron out concerns. It’s worth pointing out the promoter was not present at last week’s discussion. I think the city should try it out two days a week for a summer to determine the success. It could turn out to be yet another attraction for visitors to the town as well as local teens always trying to find something to do.
Tuesday was the six-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, one of those events people always remember where they were when it occurred. I first learned about it listening to Don Imus’ talk radio show in the car. I was in route to the office after a morning meeting with Ocean City Public Works Director Hal Adkins, who wanted to address some points raised in an editorial the week before regarding the West Ocean City Park and Ride facility.