Disappointing Outcome With Beach Toys

In bowling terms, after starring down the pins for a long time, Ocean City rolled a gutter ball when it comes to the new beach playground equipment.

After making the decision to remove the former wooden playground sets from the beach due to a number of concerns last year, Ocean City officials learned quickly that replacing them with more suitable alternatives was not going to be an easy feat. Therefore, it took more than a year for a proposal to come before the full Mayor and Council.

There were several criterions the city outlined with the new “beach toys,” and these requirements made the search difficult. They had to be easily removable from the beach. They had to not pose any sort of safety concerns for users. Additionally, they should not provide any sort of shelter or hideouts for others looking to use them for less wholesome activities than intended.
These factors apparently narrowed the options considerably. Last May, a list of 13 replacement options were presented, ranging in cost from $5,900 to $50,000, to the Recreation and Parks Commission, which directed staff to focus on potential boulder playground equipment. Fourteen months later, the Mayor and Council reviewed a proposal this week for a $16,480 structure featuring three dinosaur climbing sections and three climbing eggs. The set is available at half the cost because it’s a display item for the distributor.

The council approved the request and the plan is to put them on the beach before the end of the summer at 3rd Street.

While we understand this was a trying task and involved a large amount of research, considering the risk and injury factors involved coupled with the other unique criteria, this is a disappointing outcome. Replacing the former beach toys, which consisted of slides, poles, benches, ropes and ladders in the shape of a castle, truck, plane and boat, for example, with a more suitable alternative was deemed a “High Management” priority in the city’s strategic plan, which guides the city’s overall operations.

We have no questions about the city’s resolve and the fact a lot of efforts were put into this situation, but these boulders essentially only provide one action for kids — to climb — and their usage will be limited to children that are of a certain age, probably 4 years of age and up. These are boring and problematic. They accomplish little if the goal is to provide family enjoyment. We can see the 6-year-old girl now climbing on the structures and jumping off while her 2-year-old brother cries because his parents won’t let him climb on it because it’s not suitable for age. There need to be more uses.

Additionally, the whole concept of the pieces being dinosaur themed makes little sense considering Ocean City’s geography. That will be a laughing point for many.

The goal of providing additional recreational activities on the beach for the kids is a worthy one and it’s clearly not been met with these pieces of equipment.

With financial questions looming as to which private businesses will fork over money to help subsidize these additions, the city would have been better off to continue to conduct further research for a better alternative that will be embraced with excitement rather than bewilderment.