OCEAN CITY — Ocean City is well on its way to gaining Maryland Sustainable Community certification, but there are no plans to stop now and rest on laurels.
The resort is currently working on getting its Sustainable Ocean City certification, an award of sorts issued by the state of Maryland to recognize a jurisdiction’s attempt to improve quality of life, invest in its natural resources, protect its environment and utilize its resources in a sustainable way. While the result is clearly an improved quality of life for its citizens, there are also other implications tied to the certification including eligibility for grant funding, for example.
Ocean City officials have been steadily working toward the goal and could gain certification as soon as next summer during the annual Maryland Municipal League convention in the resort. The state awards points for a variety of checklist items needed for the certification. The state requires 150 points for the certification, but Ocean City has already blown by that number and currently has around 240 points.
However, the town’s Coastal Resources Legislative Committee, or “Green Team,” is not exactly ready to sit back and accept the award. During a meeting last week, committee members brainstormed on a variety of ways to continue the momentum for sustainability long after that 150-point mark has come and gone. From supporting local businesses to moving forward with bike trails to implementing healthy alternatives for the workforce, several initiatives could qualify for even more points, and perhaps more importantly, improve the quality of life for residents and visitors.
“It makes sense for Ocean City and the entire Eastern Shore to do it, regardless of any points we get,” said Councilman Tony DeLuca, who serves as liaison to the committee. “Green tourism is a big thing and we want to be a leader and be out in front of it.”
Of course, there is an economic benefit to being a sustainable community. Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Pursel said there is an increased awareness by the vacationing public about a destination’s sustainable practices.
“From a tourism standpoint, guests are seeking out businesses that are green,” she said. “We need to let them know what is out there and how they can get involved.”
Ocean City Environmental Engineer Gail Blazer, who is leading the town’s application effort and keeping the scorecard, so to speak, agreed tourists are increasingly aware of “green” practices and sustainability could be a marketing tool.
“I think it’s really starting to go beyond just getting the certification,” she said. “We need to find out how many people seek out greener businesses and activities. If it’s 50 percent, then I think that is something Ocean City would want to know about.”
Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones said there are shining examples all over the resort area of growing interest in sustainability.
“A really good example is our growing local craft beer industry,” she said. “They just had the Shore Craft Beer Festival downtown and it was a big success. They make and sell the beer here and people can drink it right in our own backyards. That’s a great example of sustainability.”
Pursel took it step further and said many businesses in the resort area are embracing the whole sustainability concept.
“Take The Shark restaurant, for example,” she said. “They offer Burley Oak beer from right in Berlin, get fish right from the docks and their produce from local farmers. That’s what we’re trying to do with this.”