After four meetings and months to come to some sort of consensus, Ocean City’s parking task force adjourned for the season without a clear direction. I’m dumbfounded over the fact not one option has been removed from consideration or gained support after all these meetings.
Although paid consultants often get a bad rap, I think the parking guru hired by the Town of Ocean City was right this week when he tried to remind those on the task force this is not a complicated matter. It takes an outside perspective oftentimes to bring the matter back to reason. The fact is Ocean City is going to make some changes to paid parking because new funding will be needed for the next budget. Whether it’s increasing the per-hour rate at the town-owned lots like the Inlet or adding new paid parking spots to the prime oceanfront spots – both initiatives I think are needed to raise new dollars – there will be complaints. Nobody will be happy with paying more for parking than last year and having to pay to park where they previously did not. However, it’s important to note many consumers will not even notice it one bit. An argument could be made the unaware will represent the majority of the consumers. The vast majority of today’s visitors are not tuned into it as much as people may think, despite what social media haters may opine in the comments section of Internet articles.
Consultant Dan Kupferman put it this way this week when he seemed to question the legitimacy of the concerns being expressed by task force members over parking changes.
“You don’t think people are going to come to Ocean City?” he said. “People are willing to pay to do that. Ocean City is not going to become a ghost town because of paid parking. Parking is a limited resource and there’s a cost associated with it. All cities have paid parking and Ocean City is no different. The big difference is your paid parking is concentrated in a small area … You have this amazing beach. You have 10 miles of beach with parking in close proximity. It’s an amazing resource. Nobody wants to pay, but they do want to come here and they are willing to pay.”
Over the next several months, I hope the consultant’s comments are weighed because he’s right. I also think there’s merit to what was discussed this week in exchange for increasing parking rates and adding new paid parking areas. If significant changes are made to parking fees and areas, the town should explore making the park and ride transportation free and consider not charging for parking during the weekdays in April and October. Those are compromise measures that deserve some research before the discussion is broached again next winter. The difference between the task force’s work next year and this year will be the town will be looking for new funding for the budget. A decision will have to be made.
On the surface, the idea of the World Championship Punkin Chunkin event coming to Ocean City seems out of place. A deeper dive, however, finds there is potential for it to be an economic generator at a slow time of year if all the environmental and practical concerns can be addressed.
When people think of this event, many see images of a rural party full of drinking and partying with pumpkins flying out of cannons and others homemade contraptions. That was the event for many years in Delaware. It was sort of like Preakness Day in Baltimore but in a rural town in Delaware. If it comes to Ocean City, the event organizer, Dawn Thompson, made it clear this week the event will be different than in years past as far as the trademark rowdiness. Even without those assurances, Councilman Mark Paddack took his colleagues to task over their concerns with alcohol enforcement at the event grounds.
“It’s a little hypocritical,” he said. “We allow alcohol at these other events. I got chills when I saw Punkin Chunkin on this list. We are a tourist town and we’re part of Worcester County. The questions that are coming up for this are the same questions asked years ago about the car shows and Bike Week. It’s a little frustrating. This has the potential to be a real ‘wow’ event.”
Alcohol is not my main concern with this event. I have more qualms with what the U.S. Coast Guard is going to think and how it will keep marine traffic safe from the flying projectiles. I’m sure there is way to safeguard a landing area in the ocean, but questions remain nonetheless. There is also the environmental concerns associated with pumpkins being left in the ocean. Social media was full of concerns to that effect. Because I like the trivial side of social media, one suggestion I laughed at this week involved the cannons being fired south from Ocean City onto Assateague Island so the horses could eat them. I’m thinking that’s one suggestion to discount immediately.
Most people in Berlin find fault with the name of the town’s new park – Berlin Falls Park. Now is your chance to weigh in if you are in that camp.
The Berlin Falls Park Advisory Committee is seeking the community’s input on renaming the park through an online survey, which can be found on the group’s Facebook page and on the Town of Berlin’s website. Potential names listed on the survey include Falls Park, Legacy Park, Adventure Park, Heron Park, Pride Park and Boulevard Park. If none of those hit you well, online users are able to present their own name for review so as long as it complies with naming standards outlined.