OCEAN CITY — Expanding and renovating the public dog park at 94th Street remains a top priority for the town’s recreation and parks department despite being turned down this year for a state grant for the project.
During Tuesday’s Recreation and Parks Committee meeting, the long-term master plan for all of Ocean City’s public parks was revisited after being put on the back burner this spring. Eventually, the master plan will outline the future for most of the city’s public parks, including the centerpiece downtown recreation complex along the bayside between 3rd Street and 4th Street.
Officially known as the Ocean City Dog Playground, the facility is open to resident and visitors who can purchase passes, or access cards, for various periods of time including yearly, monthly or even weekly for short-term visitors to the resort.
Over the last year or so, Recreation and Parks Department officials have been planning and designing an expansion and upgrade of the dog playground in the Little Salisbury Park at 94th Street, but the project will require some state grant funding. Recreation and Parks Director Susan Petito on Tuesday told committee members the town’s grant application for the park renovation totaling around $147,000 had been turned down in the current grant-funding cycle, but the intent is to reapply in the next cycle.
“We believe we weren’t approved this year because we still had some grants on the books and there is still some uncertainty about the tennis courts,” she said. “We want to resubmit it and we’re hopeful it will go through this time.”
Petito was referring to the relocation of the public tennis courts at 2nd Street, which will be moved to make way for the new Public Works complex along St. Louis Avenue. The plan is to eventually move the downtown tennis courts into the 3rd Street recreation complex, but the future of that park remains in flux. The decades-old park complex near the bayside between 3rd Street and 4th Street is home to the Ocean Bowl skate park, basketball courts, tennis courts, playgrounds and old baseball and softball fields that are rarely used for that purpose any more. The park is scheduled for a major reconfiguration and renovation as the Recreation and Parks Department works through its updated master plan for the entire network of public parks throughout the resort, but the future of the downtown recreation complex has not yet come into focus.
Petito said on Tuesday she would like to revisit the long-term plan for the 3rd Street recreation complex and begin moving forward with that process.
“I’d love to see all of the downtown park redesigned,” she said. “I’d like to get a parks architect to start to come up with some plans.”
Councilman Wayne Hartman, committee chair, said any future redesign of the downtown recreation complex at 3rd and 4th streets would need to include a reconfiguration of the parking in the area. Hartman suggested some of the on-street parking could be dedicated somehow to park users.
“If we do anything downtown, I’d like to reserve some of that street parking for the park,” he said. “Maybe some of the head-in parking on one side could be limited to two or three hours so park users could utilize it. As it stands now in the summer, most are parking there and going to the beach all day.”
Petito reiterated the downtown park expansion and redesign was near the top of the priority list, followed closely by the dog park at 94th Street.
“If we don’t get the grant funding this time around, the council might consider putting some money into it because it’s really used,” she said. “That’s a big priority. The other big priority is the redesign of the downtown complex.”