Year-Round Discussion Raises Valid Points

Ocean City is not a year-round resort because it’s not a destination point 12 months out of the year. That’s the simple answer to a citizen’s question posed to the Mayor and Council this week.

At this week’s government meeting, Tony Christ of the Ocean City Taxpayers for Social Justice Group requested the opportunity to poll the Mayor and Council and seek a “yes or no” to the question: is Ocean City a year-round resort?

Considering it was Christ, a general critic of this Mayor and Council’s as well as the previous body, it was obvious he had a beef and wanted to see if the town’s elected officials were blind to reality. Christ believes too many marketing dollars are being spent with the goal to expand Ocean City into a “year-round or out-of-season business location.” He thinks if that’s the city’s goal the current effort is not being successful and needs to be reconsidered.

Council members Margaret Pillas and Brent Ashley and Mayor Rick Meehan were the only council members to respond to Christ’s question.

Pillas said she views Ocean City as more of a “six-month resort” based off the financial impact from tourists, and Ashley said he thinks Ocean City is less of a year-round resort today than it was several years ago due largely to the commercial and residential emergence of West Ocean City taking business off the island.

They both raise legitimate and accurate points. So did Meehan, who told Christ he sees Ocean City as a year-round community. The mayor maintained the town has grown commercially to meet the demands of a residential base that has expanded tremendously since he moved to town in the early 1970s.

We believe Christ, Pillas, Ashley and Meehan made valid comments. While we question whether the town is truly spending a lot of marketing dollars trying to promote visits during the first quarter of the calendar year, there is no question the winter, particularly after the holidays, is the doldrums here. It will remains this way till Easter for the most part with the exception of a couple busy weekends, such as Presidents Day and St. Patrick’s parade weekends. It’s quiet and the businesses that stay open simply do it for their employees and are typically not seeing much in the way of net returns.

Ocean City will never be a year-round resort, mainly due to the weather. It’s just not appealing to many. The beach is the town’s biggest draw, and it can’t be enjoyed this time of year. It’s still beautiful, but it does not lure tourists to town for an extended period of time to spend money in hotels, condos and restaurants.

However, an argument could be made that it is an attractive option eight months of the year, in varying successes, and a growth in conventions and special events could be critical to getting to that point. Non-weather related events or gatherings are the only way to boost the winter months. Sports tournaments, like the March soccer events held at Northside Park over multiple weekends, are proof that youth-related activities carry a heavy economic impact here. The new Performing Arts Center, currently under construction at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center, might help, too. Private enterprise diversity could as well.

The fact is the peak season is too short here. We all know that. To say otherwise is silly. The best shoulder months have solid weekends, but they could be even better, and the weekdays during the heaviest shoulder months are hurting.

We look to the town’s current tourism strategic plan initiative for more insight on this entire longer season discussion and what the realistic expectations should be for a destination like Ocean City. We are looking forward to that objective process and the final document’s findings.