Special Event Zone Sought Even With H2Oi Officially Relocated

Special Event Zone Sought Even With H2Oi Officially Relocated
File photo from 2016 H2Oi weekend

OCEAN CITY — With Bike Week in the books and two other motorized special events approaching, including one sanctioned and one anticipated, resort officials this week agreed to reach out to the State Highway Administration (SHA) to re-implement the special event zone throughout town.

The Mayor and Council on Monday voted unanimously to send a letter to SHA requesting the implementation of the special event zone, similar to highway work zones of school zones with increased enforcement, lower speed limits and much higher fines, during two upcoming motorized special events. The first is unsanctioned H2O International, or H2Oi, car show set for Sept. 28-30.

While the official H2Oi event, which has traditionally been one of the most disruptive of the motorized special events in Ocean City each fall, has been moved to Atlantic City this year, Ocean City officials are anticipating a large presence of unregistered, non-participating vehicles in the resort on that weekend and strong social media postings appear to bear that sentiment out.

The official H2Oi event has been held in the resort area for several years with its headquarters based at a campground west of Berlin, but has never been officially sanctioned by the town of Ocean City as a special event. However, a large number of hangers-on, or those not participating in the official H2Oi events have contributed to the lawlessness seen during that weekend each late September. While the official event has moved to Atlantic City this year, resort officials expect more of the same and are seeking to implement the special enforcement zone that weekend.

The second event for which the town is seeking the special enforcement zone is the Endless Summer Cruisin’ event set for Oct. 4-7. While that event is sanctioned by the town of Ocean City and recognized as a special event, it has seen its share of problems over the years and warrants a special event zone, according to town officials. It should be noted the Endless Summer Cruisin’ promoters have been involved in the town’s motorized special events task force from the beginning and have come up with solutions instead of being part of the problem including creating new special events outside Ocean City along with decreasing the number of registered applicants and adding scrutiny and self-inspection of those vehicles involved with the event.

It should also be noted the special event zone was implemented for the first time during the spring cruising event last in May and achieved the desired results in terms of reducing speeds, greater enforcement and many of the problems associated with the event in the past. However, torrential rains during the early part of the spring event curtailed the participation numbers and did not give a true test of what the special event zone can and should do.

With the unsanctioned H2Oi event coming up in two weeks, followed closely by the fall cruising event in early October, the Mayor and Council on Monday agreed to send a letter to SHA requesting the implementation of the special event zone on those weekends. However, the town’s elected officials took it a step further and are seeking the special event zone and all that entails be applied to all streets throughout the resort.

The major arteries such as Coastal Highway, Philadelphia Avenue and large portions of Baltimore Avenue are controlled and maintained by the state and naturally fall under the special event zone parameters. However, the Mayor and Council are seeking to include all streets throughout Ocean City including a section of Baltimore Avenue from 15th Street to 33rd Street along with many of the side streets during the upcoming motorized events.

“Baltimore Avenue from 15th Street to 33rd Street is town-owned and not covered by State Highway,” said Councilman Dennis Dare. “I could see adding 142nd Street also because it’s main thoroughfare and is pretty well-traveled during those events.”

Councilman Matt James said the entire town should be under the umbrella of the special event zone during those events.

“I would like to see the entire town become a special event zone,” he said. “What do we have to do to make that happen.”

City Solicitor Guy Ayres said it was certainly possible.

“If it’s a public street in control of the town, that is certainly doable,” he said. “Do you want to reduce the speed limits further in those areas?”

After some debate, it was decided to lower the speed limits along Coastal Highway and the other major arteries to 30 mph during the events and keep the speed limits the same on the other town-owned streets, which are already that low generally. However, the special enforcement and larger fines can and will be applied in those areas as well. The council ultimately voted to send a letter to SHA requesting special events zones in place throughout Ocean City during those weekends.

Mayor Rick Meehan pointed out while H2Oi has moved its official event to Atlantic City, the town still anticipated a strong presence next weekend and wanted the language in the letter to reflect that.

“It should include the sanctioned fall Cruisin event and the unsanctioned, but anticipated H2Oi event,” he said.

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.