OCEAN CITY — The bright orange barrels that served as the smoking receptacles on the beach from one end of Ocean City to the other last year have been replaced with low-key smaller receptacles mounted to posts in the designated areas, but the diminished presence does not mean Ocean City is any less serious about enforcing the ordinance that went into effect last year.
Last year, the Mayor and Council adopted an ordinance banning smoking on the beach except for designated areas with proper receptacles for disregarding cigarette butts. The designated smoking areas are located on the beach at each street from the Inlet to the Delaware line with a few exceptions and smoking is only allowed within 15 feet of the designated areas.
Last year, the designated smoking areas were marked with bright orange barrels, essentially 22-gallon receptacles located along the beach and 15 feet off the Boardwalk, where smoking is also prohibited. The orange cigarette butt receptacles shared space on the beach with the countless iconic blue trash barrels, which encouraged beachgoers to pick up after themselves, but also contributed to the clutter on the otherwise pristine strand.
This year, on the eve of another Memorial Day weekend, the bright orange barrels have been replaced with smaller receptacles mounted on posts in the same areas as the original orange barrels.
Ocean City Public Works Director Hal Adkins said this week he hopes the new, low-key receptacles will achieve the twin goals of reducing maintenance costs associated with the old orange receptacles while encouraging smokers to use the designated areas and get rid of their butts appropriately. The plan all along was to change the receptacles, but Mother Nature helped nudge the process along.
“Winter Storm Jonas wiped out most of the four-by-four poles and I planned to replace many of them anyway,” said Adkins. “The orange barrels were cute, but they were painted and had already started rusting.”
Adkins said the decision was made to replace the bright orange barrels with the smaller receptacles mounted on posts in the designated areas with the appropriate signage.
“So, we went with a PVC configuration with the gray posts that are all plastic and don’t require any maintenance, and the receptacles with the black tops that also don’t require any maintenance,” he said. “I chose the black tops for the receptacles because I knew people would snuff out their cigarette butts o the top and that wouldn’t show on the black tops.”
The new receptacles are decidedly smaller and certainly less visible, but Adkins is confident they will be seen and used by smokers on the beach.
“The new receptacles are smaller in size,” he said. “The barrels were bigger, but the new receptacles will be able to accommodate the number of butts we saw last summer in the old receptacles.”
For Adkins, the bottom line is reducing the long-term cost of maintenance associated with the orange barrels while achieving the goals of the smoking ordinance.
“My goal over the years has been to minimize maintenance and keep costs down with my full-time staff,” he said. “Those orange receptacles would have to be put out every spring and taken in every fall and in between they would have to be sanded and repainted. That’s a ton of man-hours and resources.”
Meanwhile, the diminished presence of the smoking receptacles on the beach should not be taken a sign the town is any less serious about enforcing the ordinance. In the first year, the idea was education and outreach with the hope of voluntary compliance. This year, however, and it was repeated over and over at different times during the winter, the city expects to begin strictly enforcing the smoking ban on the beach and Boardwalk with the grace period for voluntary compliance expired.
“Last year was the first season that the smoking ordinance went into effect,” said OCPD Public Information Officer Lindsay Richard this week. “We understand that it takes time for our transient population to learn any new ordinances, which is why our officers focused on educating rather than citing. In 2016, citizens should be aware of the smoking ordinance by now and officers will be focusing on enforcing. Citizens are advised to abide by the smoking ordinance and refrain from smoking in non-designated areas.”