NEW FOR TUESDAY: After Last Week’s Backlash, Ocean City Revises Body Board Policy

NEW FOR TUESDAY: After Last Week’s Backlash, Ocean City Revises Body Board Policy
Local Body1

OCEAN CITY – City Council chambers resembled a day on the beach this week as surfers, parents and kids crowded the room awaiting the Mayor and City Council’s decision regarding “boogie boards.”

Last week, after receiving numerous complaints about the increased use of large body boards, those 42 inches or longer, and their perceived threat on the safety of the general public in the ocean, the Ocean City Beach Patrol began enforcing a ban on the product.

The use of “boogie” boards, which were defined in the Town Code as a semisoft, buoyant, semicurved object, no more than 42 inches long, 24 inches wide and 4 inches thick, is permitted on Ocean City beaches in nondesignated surfing areas. Several new body board styles have been introduced to the market and are similarly constructed except that the new body boards are manufactured in a variety of lengths ranging from 44 inches to more than 72 inches.

The ban touched off a widespread controversy last Wednesday over the use of the larger body boards, prompting city officials to lift the ban on Thursday morning and stop the enforcement of the section of the town code written in 1972 governing body boards until a rational, logical discussion on the issue could be held.

During Monday evening’s Mayor and City Council meeting, City Manager David Recor reported that he met with Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster and Beach Patrol Captain Butch Arbin to discuss the event that led to the heightened awareness of enforcement of the 1972 provision addressing “boogie boards” in the town code.

“Subsequently I asked the captain of the beach patrol to meet with local business owners given the evolution of the product since 1972 to solicit some feedback and potentially re-draft the code for the council’s consideration,” Recor said.

Over the weekend, City Solicitor Guy Ayres formed the feedback provided into a draft of an ordinance that would modernize the code.

“That will allow the type of product that we are seeing on our beaches to continue to be used with some discretion of behavior obviously,” Recor said.

Ayres explained that the proposed ordinance “cleans up a couple of definitions” within the code.

The definition of boogie board was repealed and a definition of a “soft top body board” was inserted instead. A body board is now described as a flexible semi-soft, buoyant, semicurved object, no longer than 54 inches long, no wider than two feet, not thicker than four inches, made out of closed-cell polyurethane foam or similar material, but not always have a smooth plastic layer attached to the bottom, and without rigid or semi-rigid attachment or protrusions attached for steering movements that would serve as rudder or commonly referred to as skegs.

Also, body boards over 42 inches will be permitted provided that the use some sort of attachment, such as an ankle leash, and remain separated from others by 10 yards.

Arbin explained that when the code was first formed in 19672 “boogie boards” didn’t exist and it wasn’t until 1978 when the language was added but at that time the product did not exceed 42 inches.

“I talked with five surf shops on Thursday, talked to owners and managers, found out what they’re selling, what they’re using, what their need is, what they think is reasonable and came up with the changes,” Arbin said.

The council voted unanimously to approve the amended ordinance and Mayor Rick Meehan approved the ordinance as an emergency having the law become effective immediately.

“I want to thank the city … for reacting quickly to this. It was obviously something that took everybody by surprise, we got a lot of calls about it, and when you look back and you figure this was something that was originally drafted in 1972 and it is now 2012, obviously it is out of date,” Meehan said. “I am glad that cool heads prevailed … this is what we can do in a small community, we can recognize a problem, get together, and quickly remedy it, and I think that is what happened tonight.”