OCEAN CITY — Months after it was added as a new play structure on the beach at Somerset Street, Wally the Whale apparently is already in need of a facelift.
Last January, the Mayor and Council approved Wally the Whale as the newest addition to the downtown beach at Somerset Street adjacent to the Boardwalk area. The play structure includes a whale’s head emerging from the sand on one end and its tail protruding from the beach at the other end. It includes barnacle-like fixtures on the head and tail, allowing kids and presumably adults, to climb on the structure.
The newest addition to the beach toy collection on the beach in the downtown area was installed this spring, but after a full summer under its belt, it already needs some rehabilitation. During his report on the Recreation and Parks Committee meeting last week, Councilman Dennis Dare told the Mayor and Council on Monday the whale structure was due for a renovation after just a few months in the often harsh beach conditions.
“With the play structure that was just added on the beach, Wally the Whale, the manufacturer wants to replace it with a different material, which will be done at their cost,” said Dare on Monday. “Basically, it’s warranty work. They weren’t satisfied with how the material is holding up in that environment.”
In 2013, the town removed the long-standing wooden playground equipment, or “beach toys,” for a variety of reasons including potential safety hazards and some of the late night activities by some for whom the toys were not intended. Over the last couple of years, the town has wrestled with replacing the beach toys from a financial and practical standpoint.
Two years ago, the newest addition was the dinosaur bones structure at 3rd Street. While all agree the beach toys offer a nice alternative and free amenity for families on the beach and Boardwalk, replacing the decades-old equipment has been challenging. To that end, the Recreation and Parks Committee last fall put out a request for proposal with a budget of around $26,000. What came back were six proposals from three companies, each with their own pros and cons.
The Recreation and Parks Committee reviewed the proposals and winnowed the list to three preferred alternatives, from which Wally the Whale emerged, literally and figuratively, as the favorite. In the end, “Wally the Whale” was chosen for a variety of reasons, including its aesthetic value, the practicality of removing it and storing and the relative ease with which the Public Works Department can clean the beach around it.
The whale structure came in just under the $26,000 budgeted and its cost is being augmented somewhat through a private-public partnership. Throughout the last year, several companies and individuals have come in with donations totaling $4,500 to offset the town’s cost of providing the amenity.