OCEAN CITY – The resort is dealing with sticker shock when it comes to replacing playground equipment on the beach.
On Tuesday, the Recreation and Parks Commission received an update on the endeavor to place additional playground equipment on the beach.
Recreation and Parks Director Susan Petito announced the town received another donation of $2,000 from Greg Shockley of Shenanigans Irish Pub & Grille and the Shoreham Hotel to purchase additional beach playground equipment. Shockley had been working with a group of Boardwalk business owners to collect funding but has been the only donation from the group so far.
“This group would really love to see additional play structures in the future but they are unable to donate money right now,” Petito said. “Play equipment is very expensive.”
Petito attended the National Recreation and Parks Conference several months ago and took the opportunity to discuss the matter with many playground companies and the uniqueness of equipment needed for Ocean City’s beaches.
“I did talk to a lot of play equipment companies and most of them felt like they could create something that would work for our beach,” Petito said.
For play equipment to be located on the beach, it has to be removable during the off-season and in case of severe weather. The equipment also has to endure the atmosphere of the beach as well as be safe and open.
One of the ideas is a sea turtle climbing structure that comes to about $21,000.
“But like anything else to install something like this on the beach, it is not designed to be on the beach, so we would have to create some real heavy plates to hold it in place,” Petito said.
Other options have been considered that are similar to the dinosaur structure that was placed on the beach last summer. They are climbable animals that come in pieces, such as the head and tales of a whale or a shark, as well as pieces of coral or barrier reefs that would all stay within a beach theme. The price tag on the pieces comes to around $30,000.
“We need to have a plan,” Petito said.” We have struggled with this for a long time.”
Petito asked the commission if it wanted to find funding first or choose a structure and then find funding. Other questions were what kinds of structure are preferred, such as random structures or keep it within a theme and the preferable locations, such as the beach or Boardwalk bump outs.
“The prices are outrageous … I hate to budget for something without knowing what it is for,” Council President Lloyd Martin said.
Councilman Wayne Hartman suggested approaching the Ocean City Development Corporation and the Boardwalk Development Committee over funding or looking for grants.
According to Petito, there is a Community Parks and Playground Grant available but the application period is in August and funding doesn’t come until the next year.
Acknowledging the prices were unrealistic for one or two businesses to fund, the commission was in consensus to move forward with identifying alternative funding sources.
In July, Tow Boat US owner Greg Hall donated $1,000 towards purchasing additional beach play equipment, and challenged others to do the same.
The donation was followed by Councilman Doug Cymek and former Councilman Brent Ashley each donating $500.
This all came about in April of 2013 when the Recreation and Parks Commission agreed to not have the wooden playground structures return to the beach off the Boardwalk once staff brought to the elected officials’ attention how the structures have become safety hazards as well as a nuisance with late-night patrons on the boardwalk. The former beach play equipment were purchased and donated by local businesses.
Last summer the first beach playground replacement of dinosaur bones was put on the beach. The structure includes three dinosaur climbing sections of a head, ribs, tail and three climbing eggs. The individual structures are made of PolyFiberCrete and weigh from 1,325 to 2,750 pounds. As a courtesy, the play structure was available to the town for $16,480, about half the retail price, and free delivery.