City Council Approves Bayside Horse Carriage Rides

OCEAN CITY – A bayside horse-drawn carriage ride route downtown has been approved to operate during summer evenings.

On Tuesday, Randy Davis of R & B Ranch Carriage Rides returned before the Mayor and City Council requesting approval of a bayside horse-drawn carriage ride route.

Davis, who operates the horse-drawn carriage rides on the Boardwalk during the off-season as well as in Berlin, first proposed the idea of rides along the bayside last year.

Davis originally proposed a route starting on 2nd Street and the Boardwalk between the Plim Plaza and Ocean Gallery, moving west crossing two main intersections on Baltimore and Philadelphia avenues toward the bayside, and looping around 4th Street to return to the point of origin.

Davis asked to use a maximum of three carriages when needed and to operate the service from 5-10 p.m. to capture the sunset over the bay, during the week with Fridays and Saturdays off.

Davis explained the carriages used are standard carriages wrapped in Christmas lights and are equipped with the standard orange caution signage and four-way flashing lights.

The Police Commission decided at that time to have the police department review statistical information of past collisions involved with the proposed route prior to granting approval.

According to Ocean City Police Department Lt. Scott Harner, there were over 1,500 collisions in Ocean City in 2013, most of them being minor. The department conducted a study on the intersections included in the proposed route based on an eight-year period. The intersection at 2nd Street and Baltimore Ave. and 2nd Street and Philadelphia Ave. over the eight-year period had at least 50 crashes each, averaging out to six crashes a year.

Despite the commission’s hesitation, Mayor Rick Meehan made a motion to allow a trial operation of the bayside horse-drawn carriage rides from 2nd Street and the Boardwalk but the motion died due to the lack of a second.

A couple of weeks ago, Davis returned to the Police Commission with an alternative route starting on the west side of Philadelphia Ave. and 3rd Street near the skate park. The staging area was proposed to take place in two parking spaces on 3rd Street, which the commission was not in favor of and suggested the parking spaces in front of the tennis facility on Dayton Lane instead.

The commission unanimously voted to forward the concept to the full Mayor and Council for consideration.

The proposed route will begin at 3rd Street heading south on Dayton Lane, turning west on 2nd Street to Chicago Avenue, turning north to 4th Street, east to St. Louis Avenue, south to 3rd

Street and return to Dayton Lane.

“I enjoy and encourage the carriage routes from when Mr. Davis came to us a couple years ago to do this on the Boardwalk,” Council Secretary Mary Knight said. “My concern is downtown we have very few park facilities. In the proposal there are two parking spaces that our tennis players utilize … so I have grave concerns about taking away those two spots from one of the few amenities that we have downtown.”

Councilman Wayne Hartman echoed Knight’s concerns.

“That section of St. Louis Ave. we just narrowed because of the playground, so traffic will be tied up in the corridor,” he said. “I think it is a great draw in the offseason but in the summer when traffic and safety is such a concern I have an issue with it being on a busy street such as St. Louis Ave.”

Davis reminded the council he also operated in Berlin, where roadways are much tighter, without issues.

“What he has been able to do on the Boardwalk has become an attraction, and it hasn’t interfered with anyone,” Meehan said in support. “As far as the two parking spaces, they are not dedicated to that facility … I don’t think we should be afraid to try something new, especially something that has turned out to be popular among our tourists. Mr. Davis has shown that he is responsible, and nobody would be more cautious than he is with his horses, just like you would be with your automobile.”

Hartman asked Davis if he had investigated private property, and Davis responded he had to no avail.

Councilman Dennis Dare pointed out the parking spaces are also used by surrounding residents.

“It is a loss of parking spaces one way or another unless he is on private property … I really didn’t look at it as a huge blow to the recreational facility,” he said. “I hope that he will be successful and if he is there will be a private sector that will look at it as a family-oriented partnership. We have to start some place, and there are a lot of upsides to it.”

Councilman Doug Cymek, chair of the Police Commission, made a motion to approve the request.

“This was well vetted by the Police Commission and offered the two spots. We let Mr. Davis know this is a trial run. If it doesn’t work and there are life-safety issues then we may have to discontinue it. This is not his first round,” he said.

The council voted 6-1 to approve with Hartman opposed.