OCEAN CITY – Worcester County has an untold story waiting to be told, said Worcester County NAACP President Edward Lee this week in a request to the Mayor and City Council for funding for a county-wide cultural and economic business venture.
“What contribution has the African-American community made in Worcester County?” questioned Lee, pointing out that the answer remains to be discovered.
Through an economic, cultural and educational venture, Lee hopes to tell the story of African American history in Worcester County through a series of heritage trails that would spread throughout the county starting and ending in Ocean City.
Phase one of the project requires academic research into the local history of African Americans throughout Worcester County, explained Lee.
Salisbury University’s Dr. Clara Small would be tasked with gathering the necessary research for the Heritage Trails, research that would cost roughly $56,000 for Small to gather and organize.
Once the research is secured, heritage trails would be developed in an effort to take locals and tourists through areas of the county that hold importance to African American history. Starting and ending in Ocean City, the trails would highlight different areas of the county, traveling to Pocomoke City and stopping at already developed historical venues such as the Delmarva Discovery Center and the Heritage House. Stops in Berlin and Snow Hill would also be included in the tours.
“We don’t know about some of the colorful, wonderful backgrounds that we have,” said Pocomoke City Mayor Michael McDermott. “This isn’t something you should support just because it is African American history.”
McDermott pointed out the economic component of the venture.
“If we could work this out as a component of tourism, everyone would benefit,” McDermott said.
According to McDermott, Pocomoke has dedicated $15,500 in their budget to the project, but he pointed out that the money is contingent upon the contribution of other municipalities.
McDermott also noted that the long-term goal would be to include a museum component in Ocean City.
Council member Nancy Howard questioned the need for extensive research, wondering if other, already available sources could be utilized.
“We want to be able to actually define the history and document it,” said McDermott.
Lee added that the key is to have scholastic, rather than anecdotal, stories highlighted in the heritage trails. Academic research would also help in garnering more grant funding in the future, he said.
Lee asked the Mayor and City Council to consider the $13,650 budget request for the project. Although the funding is key to the project right now, Lee noted that the support of all the municipalities is equally as important.
“We need help collectively, we would be remiss if we didn’t ask you to be a part of this,” said McDermott.
Howard suggested the council revisit the request Monday night after the second reading of the budget.
“I am in support of this, but of course money is money,” said Howard.
“We’re losing history, black and white, almost everyday,” said Council member Jay Hancock.
“This is a way for us to connect all the municipalities in Worcester County,” said Mayor Rick Meehan in support.
The council agreed to revisit the request Monday night.