OCEAN CITY — Ocean City and Worcester County have been invited to participate in the new State Highway Administration (SHA) project to install new signage along roadways to better direct visitors to attractions.
SHA officials met with the Mayor and Council on Tuesday to outline its ongoing Tourist Area and Corridor (TAC) signing program being implemented along highways and roadways across Maryland. The TAC is a plan to eliminate some of the current existing signs that direct tourists and visitors to attractions throughout Maryland with a unified, easily recognizable sign program.
“The concept is to provide signage for eligible attractions to direct visitors off state roads and onto local and county roads with the permission of the local jurisdictions,” SHA TAC Coordinator Steven Hollie told the Mayor and Council on Tuesday. “It’s already being implemented in 10 counties and we’re close to finalizing the entire state.”
In Ocean City, the TAC signs could direct visitors to the Inlet or the Lifesaving Station Museum or other attractions. SHA will design, fabricate and install the signs at no expense to the local jurisdiction, which only have to apply to have their eligible attractions included. However, there are some criteria to be met to become eligible.
“We aren’t considering retail or commercial attractions,” said Hollie. “They would have to be open to random visitation because we wouldn’t want to direct visitors to an attraction without a reasonable expectation it is open to visitation. It would have to be open at least eight months out of the year, unless there is a seasonal aspect like Ocean City has. What we’re looking for are attractions that area generally open at least five days a week for around 30 hours per week. Another requirement is that the sites are ADA compliant.”
Hollie explained the TAC would include interpretive and interactive signs for historical sites and other featured attractions. In some cases, the signs direct visitors to single attractions, but in other cases, the signs could direct visitors to a broader parking location within easy walking distance of several attractions. Hollie explained the latter would most likely work best for Ocean City.
“In dense areas, it’s better to put signage in parking areas that serve many sites and attractions,” he said. “Ocean City already has so much signage already that we wouldn’t want install dozens all over the city.”
As essentially a one-highway town for the most part, Ocean City presents some unique challenges for the TAC, but none that cannot be overcome, according to Hollie.
“One of the chief concerns with Ocean City is competing with outdoor commercial signs,” he said. “There are also so many areas with sidewalks close to be ADA compliant and we would want to make sure we don’t compromise that or complicate the right-of-way.”
Hollie explained the next step would be for the town of Ocean City to identify eligible attractions that might qualify for the state signage program and send in applications. The applications would be reviewed by an eligibility committee for approval and SHA would then start developing a concept for Worcester County and Ocean City. The final step would be finalizing the sign designs and installing them. The applications are due on March 3 and the final concept for Worcester and Ocean City would be developed early in 2017.
The council voted to endorse the TAC program for Ocean City and requested Tourism Director Donna Abbott take the lead.
“I think we would have a number of locations that meet the criteria,” said Mayor Rick Meehan. “The lifesaving museum, the convention center, our visitor’s center and our municipal golf course immediately come to mind, but I bet we could think of many more.”