Next Week’s Cruisin Provides First Test To Recent Event Changes

OCEAN CITY — After months of task-forcing, brainstorming and planning, the rubber hits the road next week on Ocean City’s efforts to calm motorized special events with the arrival of the spring Cruisin event.

After tumultuous motorized special events in 2017, resort officials formed a task force to begin exploring ways to combat some of the illicit and reckless activity. Throughout the winter, the task force met several times and hashed out measured responses to many of the issues related to the motorized special events. In addition, the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association and the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce pulled together their members to determine how best the business community and can assist the allied law enforcement agencies and help police their own properties.

Out of all of the meetings came a variety of initiatives aimed at curbing some of the undesired activity associated with the motorized events and make them more palatable for the community, its residents and visitors not associated with the events. Mayor Rick Meehan this week praised each of the initiatives, and while each one taken by itself may not make a major difference, collectively he believes they will all make the events better.

“We think these things will make it better for the participants and the community,” he said. “There is no magic answer here, but if we do all of these things incrementally, we believe it will make these events better.”

The centerpiece of the task force initiatives has been the creation of a special enforcement zone along the resort’s roadways akin to highway work zones and school zones, for example, with lower speed limits, higher fines and stronger enforcement. Starting next Tuesday on the front edge of the spring cruising event, special event zones will be established on roadways throughout the resort.

At the request of town officials, a pair of special event zone bills were cross-filed in the General Assembly this year by Senator Jim Mathias and Delegate Mary Beth Carozza. Both bills breezed through their respective chambers and the legislation was officially signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan.

“We were very fortunate,” said Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Chief Ross Buzzuro. “This is the first time in Maryland something like this has passed.”

Buzzuro said in advance of next week’s Cruisin event, a meeting was held last week with State Highway Administration (SHA) officials and various town department heads including public works on how best to implement the special enforcement zone for the first time.

“We worked through some things,” he said. “This first event is quickly approaching and the special event zones will be in place throughout Ocean City. It is going to be a good tool and resource for us to keep people safe.”

Throughout the discussions all winter about special enforcement zones, the conventional thinking was fines would be doubled for most violations. Although he didn’t go into detail, Buzzuro this week hinted the fines could be significantly higher than that for some violations.

“The fines will be increased a great deal,” he said. “The fines will be even more than doubled in most cases.”

Meehan said representatives from the motorized special events including TEAM Productions, which operates the spring and fall Cruisin events, participated in the task force process. Instead of taking an adversarial position, the event representatives embraced the proposed changes in order to make the events better for the community and the participants.

“The representatives from the events participated in this process,” said Meehan. “They are in support of all we are doing.”

On Monday, TEAM Productions’ Bob Rothermel outlined some of the efforts to spread the events over larger areas with activities in and around the resort. For example, there will be concert on Thursday, a party at Ocean Downs on Friday, a Trimper’s Family Night on Saturday and other organized events at different venues. Perhaps the most significant change will be the “Takin’ it to the Strip” events at the U.S. 13 Dragway in Delmar where enthusiasts will be able to do burnouts, show off their vehicles and other activities that have caused much of the consternation inside Ocean City over the years. Rothermel said he believes many of the participants will embrace the planned activities at the dragway and get out of town at least for a few hours each day.

“Those events will be open on Friday night and all day Saturday,” he said. “The hope is they get it all out of their system. We wanted to spread some of the events out to take some of the pressure off Ocean City.”

Those are just some of the highlights of the initiatives that came out of the task force process. Meehan said all of the problems won’t be fixed immediately, but the first steps will improve the events.

“We’ll get through this first Cruisin event and see what worked and what needs more tweaking,” he said. “We want to let everybody know what actions we’re taking. We will have the special event zones in place. It might slow some of use down a little bit, but it will help. There will still be cars and noise, but all of these things will make it better.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.