By attaching Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster’s name to the Ocean City Dog Playground, Ocean City has opened itself up to criticism. In this case, I think it’s legitimate. The city recently decided against naming city facilities after residents over concerns it would set a precedent that could ultimately lead to some citizens taking umbrage. According to this week’s letter from resident Tonja Sas, the city initially intended on naming the gazebo and pavilion at Fiesta Park in Caine Woods after her mother, Margaret. That much was said during her mother’s memorial service and confirmed afterwards by various members of the Mayor and Council. It was later decided the city would not name the pavilion after Sas because there were far too many deserving citizens than city facilities that could be named in their honor. The feeling was some citizens would undoubtedly be left out. I think the city made the right decision here to forgo naming public facilities after its treasured residents. It’s one thing to name the Inlet parking lot after former Mayor Hugh T. Cropper or the convention center after former Mayor Fish Powell, but to begin naming small projects after citizens could mean trouble and feelings would undoubtedly be hurt. More harm than good would come from this, and the next thing we know the city would be naming trees on Coastal Highway after philanthropic citizens and deserving volunteers. That being said, I think the city is being hypocritical by naming the dog park after Shuster, even if it was a tongue-in-cheek type of thing, as some maintain, because he has become the resident expert on dog parks. If the city’s policy is not to name publicly-owned buildings or land after residents, it should not turn around and do it for its employees who are simply doing what they are paid handsomely to do.
Work on the new downtown recreation complex between 3rd and 4th streets in Ocean City could begin by year’s end, city officials said last week. However, a lot has to go the city’s way for that to happen and this timeline is indeed optimistic. The main hurdle keeping the project at bay is a long-term lease agreement with the county. This should be an easy matter to resolve, but a stalemate has left the project hanging in the balance. The city wants a 20-year lease, but the county has not been willing to go that long, saying a 15-year deal is more appropriate and within its comfort level. Without a 20-year accord, financing for the work becomes problematic. As a matter of fact, the project cannot be included in a municipal bond without the two-decade commitment. This dispute needs to be resolved. The plans for this park are exciting. Basically, the entire area between the bay and Philadelphia Avenue will be overhauled with new amenities and improvements at every turn. What’s there now will get a little touch of 2008 and other exciting aspects will be added. I see it potentially as a miniature version of Northside Park on the south side of town and a boon to residents and visitors looking for some open space to exercise, walk the dog or just get some green in their lives. This needs to get done. It’s just not that complicated.
Some well-known national musical acts will be rolling into town in two weeks. Hitting the stage at the convention center on Aug. 5 and 6 will be the Charlie Daniels Band, .38 Special, The Trammps and KC & the Sunshine Band. Kudos to Ocean City for forking out the coin to bring these national acts to town. These concerts come on the heels of the Little River Band in May and the Beach Boys earlier this month. Although the resort does now offer the free weekly beach concerts during July and August, live entertainment used to be a mainstay at the convention center years ago. Reggae Sunsplash was a popular event, featuring dozens of top rasta acts, and, of course, Kenny Rogers was an annual must-see for some. I, unfortunately, remember seeing Robert Palmer there years ago. It’s no secret the convention center sits empty during some summer days and nights, particularly during the week. It’s my hope these concerts are well-attended and lead the town’s decision makers to make a point of bringing more known groups to town.