OCEAN CITY — Ocean City officials this week got a look at a pair of initiatives aimed at keeping the beaches in the resort clean, including a progressive “Adopt Your Beach” proposal initiated by the Ocean City Surf Club.
On Tuesday, the Coastal Resources Legislative Committee, or the “Green Team,” debated the merits of the two concurrent initiatives, including the Adopt Your Beach program and the Environmentally Friendly Beach Program. The former is being explored by the Ocean City Surf Club, a grassroots organization that advocates for clean beaches and increased awareness and education, among other things.
The club’s Adopt Your Beach program would solicit volunteers, from schools, businesses, church groups, condo associations and other organizations to take ownership, or perhaps more appropriately stewardship, of “their beach.” Under the program, a group or organization would literally adopt a section of beach in Ocean City, maybe a single block or a group of two or three blocks.
The organizations or individuals would be required to clean and monitor their adopted beaches with at least four organized beach cleanups from April to November, although year-round monitoring would be encouraged. The volunteers would document the types of trash and debris collected and ultimately hauled away by the town’s Public Works department and that information could be used to identify certain problem areas.
“There would be an ‘adopt your beach’ sign at the end of the streets and the groups or organizations would be responsible for cleaning their adopted beach,” said the Ocean City Surf Club’s Effie Cox, who pitched the idea to the committee on Tuesday. “They would conduct four beach cleanups a year at least and Public Works would pick up what is collected. They would let us know what they found.”
Cox said although the program is only in the planning stages, already there has been keen interest.
“Six groups have already expressed interest and that’s without even trying,” she said.
Ocean City Environmental Engineer Gail Blazer said the program would be different than the decades-old Dune Patrol program. Since the advent of beach replenishment and the creation of the vast fenced-in dune network on the beaches, Ocean City has maintained a Dune Patrol to clean and monitor the dunes.
Councilman and committee liaison Tony DeLuca suggested the two programs could be linked. DeLuca said his condo association in the midtown area would likely want to get involved.
“I think if we do this, we need to tie the two together,” he said. “I really like this. It’s going to give us cleaner beaches. If you are on a block, why wouldn’t you want to keep the beach clean? If we adopt 48th and 49th streets, that’s our beach. Of course, we’re going to keep it clean.”
The initial program calls for signage at each street end to designate which group or organization has adopted that particular beach, but Blazer suggested more sign clutter at the street ends could defeat the purpose to some degree.
“I think we don’t need a sign at the street end of every single beach,” she said. “It could be counter-productive. We could end up with 146 new signs out there on the beaches.”
Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Pursel agreed adding signs to every street end could defeat the purpose.
“What’s the point of a sign?” she said. “If they are concerned citizens, they wouldn’t necessarily want credit for cleaning up the beach. It’s more about cleaning the beach then getting credit for it.”
However, Pursel agreed the Adopt a Beach program could put forth a public service message that Ocean City is serious about keeping its beaches clean.
“From a tourism perspective, safe and clean are number one and number two on the list,” she said. “It’s so important to project that Ocean City cares and this is a way to do that.”
In related beach cleaning news, DeLuca provided an update on a parallel program under consideration to create at least one completely environmentally-friendly beach. It could be a pilot program of sorts in which at least one beach would be maintained in its natural, pristine state. DeLuca said 34th Street had been suggested for the pilot program.
“It would be one block of entirely environmentally-friendly beach,” he said. “There would be no trash cans, no smoking, no cigarette butts. Everything you take with you on the beach must come off.”
Maryland Coastal Bays Program representative Sandi Smith said City Engineer Terry McGean tested the theory at the Inlet beach last summer with mixed results.
“He tested it last year at the Inlet and what he found was less trash cans on the beach resulted in less trash on the beach,” she said. “People took the trash with them when they left. It’s kind of the same principle as Assateague and it works down there.”
After considerable debate, the committee agreed both programs had merit and needed a little fine tuning before being brought to the Mayor and Council.