Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

Whatever Ocean City decides to do in the future to encourage people to restrict their smoking to certain areas on the beach, one thing is for sure — the status quo does not do it.

The cheap black smoking receptacles that were on the beach last weekend are not the answer. In fact, from what I observed on several beaches last weekend, there appeared to be a public snub of the plastic and lightweight receptacles, as fresh cigarette butts were evident a few feet from them.

If Ocean City goes the restricted beach smoking course, as the Mayor and Council indicated it would before next summer, a new concept needs to be weighed. At one point, over the weekend, I noticed elementary school aged kids throwing the receptacles back and forth in some sort of creative competition. It’s unknown whether there were cigarettes inside or not, but they were lightweight enough for the youngsters to hurl them around.

Some people even posed next to them for some “selfies” in a mocking fashion. It was worth noting that each morning we went to the beach last weekend the receptacles within our sightlines were lying on their sides.

After a spirited discussion earlier this spring, the Mayor and Council made it known it will eventually sign off on an ordinance creating a restrictive smoking policy for the beach. That’s expected to be done sometime in the early fall after city staff conducts research and presents a plan of action for consideration.

I’m looking forward to hearing what staff suggests, but here’s to hoping these receptacles are not part of the plan because they are long on humor, short on effectiveness and are ripe to be stolen by the dimwits among us.

“Senior Month” is in full swing in Ocean City, and it appears to be starting earlier and earlier these days.

Due to my chosen professional career, I am nosey by nature and consequently start conversations with strangers all the time, particularly when it’s apparent they are not from here.

While standing in line for pizza at a local Boardwalk establishment last weekend, I was behind a group of six Annapolis area high school graduates, who were in town for their “Senior Week.” Of course, each one of them had their heads buried in their cell phones most of the time. When one of them came up for air, I offered them congratulations and inquired what school each had chosen for college.

After turning down their offer to buy them beer at a nearby convenience store (and the additional $50 cash bonus offered), we had a casual conversation about Ocean City. It was interesting to hear their perspective. While they were obviously looking to imbibe during their stay, they didn’t mind talking to me about other things after I shot down the offer. Most interesting was why they chose to come to Ocean City when they did.

This group of six came on Sunday, May 18 and planned to leave Sunday, May 25. Although it included the holiday weekend, they said chose this week because it was the only week their parents would pay for their rental. Plus, in their own awkward teenage way, they said it’s not cool to come to Ocean City in June anymore. One guy summed it up, saying, “most of our local kids don’t come in June because we have to work to save for college.”

It was important over the last couple weeks to spread the word about the “College Takeover Beach Week” set to take place next week, June 5-8.

Hopefully, all the exposure about the event will be for naught with no major incidents to report, but it was critical to shine a spotlight on the event and highlight some of the problems that have been associated with it in the past.

After News Editor Shawn Soper interviewed Worcester County Sheriff Reggie Mason this week and the OCPD last week, it was clear the plan from a law enforcement standpoint is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst for what could be a huge crowd.

“I want them to come in here and have a great time, but we’re not going to tolerate any of the stuff we saw with this group in Virginia Beach and Myrtle Beach a couple of years ago,” he said. “Myrtle Beach actually had to shut down because of this. If they obey the laws and behave themselves, we won’t have any problems, but we’re going to be very proactive and we’re going to be ready. … We’re going to have officers on horseback and we’re going to bring our four-wheelers in to patrol the beaches. We’re going to have officers patrolling the outlets in West Ocean City and we’re going to be all over the place.”

Ocean City has the beds and Wicomico County has the sports infrastructure. That’s a combination that officials hope will make a new sports-marketing partnership called the Mid-Atlantic Amateur Sports Alliance a fruitful one for all involved.

Ocean City currently has an events-driven economy. The importance of quality events that fill hotels and condominiums and boost sales at restaurants and retail outlets cannot be underscored, particularly in the off-season.

Therefore, it’s difficult to find any negatives with the concerted effort of this partnership to attract and grow sports events, like the huge girls softball tournaments that took place last summer. The economic impact from the players and their families was reported to be minor last summer, but it should only grow over the years as visitors realize just how close their games are being played to the beach.

This partnership has major potential, making the efforts worthwhile.