Beach Horseback Riding Service Put Out For Bid

OCEAN CITY – The City Council acted on a number of subcommittee recommendations this week, including a time change for the Route 50 drawbridge closure on 4th of July, more support for an annual car parade, approval of the 2015 special event schedule and moving ahead with a horseback concession on the beach.

Horseback RFP Passed
In 2011, Councilman Brent Ashley brought forward the idea of allowing horseback riding on the beach as an off-season promotion and the council approved the concept as well as horse and carriage rides downtown. Horseback riding is allowed from 27th Street south to the South Jetty at the Inlet from Nov. 1 to March 30.
Following the first off-season with horseback riding on the beach, in late August of 2012, Ashley asked to have staff prepare a RFP for a vendor to offer pony and/or horse led rides on the beach south of the pier to the Inlet. He also suggested including in the RFP the possibility of adults renting horses from the vendor for riding on the beach without any leads because there were many requests for this service last year.
The council voted unanimously to approve the RFP process for pony led rides and horse rentals.
A couple weeks ago, Ashley questioned City Manager David Recor why the RFP had not been brought forward before the Mayor and City Council and the matter was scheduled to be reviewed during last week’s commission meeting.
At that time, Recor explained the RFP Scope of Service is outlined to include horseback riding, guided rides, school programs, community programs and therapeutic riding. Having pony led rides south of the pier and horseback riding north of the pier was not distinguished in the RFP.
Recor added, when horseback riding was initially brought up it was proposed as shoulder season activity, and an idea to increase business in the off-season. Initially it was based to have a permit process to allow independent horse owners to ride, but now it is being proposed to have a concessionaire to allow horse for rent.
According to Recor, in the first year six permits were issued for horseback riding on the beach, and last year there were none.
Mitrecic voiced concern over initiating an RFP for a horseback riding concession on the beach because when the carriage ride service was brought before the council it was approved without an RFP. Also, in speaking with horse owners, he learned it is not healthy for horses to give rides on the beach as the sand is not easy on their legs and joints.
The commission was in consensus to forward the RFP to City Solicitor Guy Ayres for review, which in turn will pass the RFP to the full Mayor and City Council for their opinion. However, the commission was not in favor of forwarding a recommendation to have the council approve.
This week, Acting City Solicitor Heather Stansbury reported City Solicitor Guy Ayres has reviewed the RFP and there were no changes made. Despite the commission’s concerns, the council voted 5-2 to move forward with the RFP for horseback riding service on the beach with Mitrecic and Councilman Dennis Dare opposed.
“We do an RFP for just about everything in town that we have. The gentleman that runs the carriage rides on the Boardwalk was not approved via RFP … if we are going to do an RFP for horses on the beach, I think we should look into an RFP in the future years for carriage rides on the Boardwalk also. It is the only fair way to do business,” Mitrecic said.
When Mitrecic brought forward his concerns over the health of the horses on the beach, Ashley responded, “If that is the case, I will set a motion that sets a policy that our police horses are not allowed on the beach accept for an emergency because I don’t want our police horses hurt as well.”
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas added wild horses live on and around Assateague Island’s beach and there are no problems heard of.
“You also don’t hear of experienced riders riding those wild horses, or any riders,” Mitrecic said. “It’s not up for debate I just said I cannot support it.”

Bridge Closure Changed
In August, Ocean City Police Lt. Scott Harner brought to the Police Commission’s attentions the town’s ability to make a request in changing or expanding the time frame the Route 50 drawbridge is closed on the night of the 4th of July to relieve traffic from the downtown area following the fireworks display.
The current operating schedule for the bridge is set for the drawbridge to open at 25 and 55 minutes after the hour for a maximum of five minutes, except that on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. the draw shall open on the hour for all waiting vessels and remain in the open position until all waiting vessels pass.
Since the bridge is currently allowed to be closed from 9:30-10:30 p.m., the 9:55 p.m. and 10:25 p.m. openings are eliminated from the schedule. However, the fireworks go off around 9:40 ending around 9:50, resulting in traffic being released from downtown between 10 and 11 p.m.
After Harner discussed the time change with commercial charters and no concerns were expressed, the commission was in consensus to give a favorable recommendation to the full Mayor and City Council to move the time change forward.
Police Commission Chair Councilman Doug Cymek brought the matter this before before the Mayor and City Council, which voted unanimously to request the Coast Guard alter the closing of the Route 50 drawbridge on 4th of July to 10-11 p.m.

License Plate Rally
Receives Town Support
Last week, former Councilwoman Nancy Howard, representing the Downtown Association, came before the Recreation and Parks Commission to report on the OC Vintage License Plate Rally and Drive in Disguise event that took place on Oct. 19.
The Downtown Association sent out 300 postcards notifying OC license plate holders of the event, which cost around $400. However, most of the post cards were returned due to faulty addresses, and there were only 56 registered OC Vintage License Plate cars and five Drive in Disguise cars that participated in the event.
In seeking better communication with the Town of Ocean City, Special Events Superintendent Frank Miller has stepped up as the town’s point person to work with the Downtown Association in bettering the rally.
This week Commission Chair Councilman Joe Mitrecic recommended the Mayor and City Council approve Miller in working with the Downtown Association on behalf of the Town of Ocean City to better promote the event, as well as support the Downtown Association to go before the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) to ask for future funding for promotion costs. The council voted unanimously to approve.

Event Scheduled OK’d
When the commission met last month, the 2015 Town Sponsored Special Event Schedule was presented. A concern arose over Mother’s Day in 2015 falling on the same weekend, May 7-10, as Springfest is traditionally held and the commission voted to table the schedule until further research over the conflict was conducted.
Last week staff returned the schedule to the commission after polling the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA), Tourism Director Donna Abbott and 2013 Springfest vendors, who all favored having a cross-promotion of Mother’s Day and Springfest in 2015 and to keep the Springfest’s date as is.
Mitrecic recommended the Mayor and City Council approve the 2015 Town Sponsored Special Event Schedule as is, as well as establish a Springfest and Mother’s Day promotion in that year. The council voted unanimously to approve.