OCEAN CITY — An ongoing systematic review of the tourism strategic plan continued this week, and the conversation turned to how to better maintain a clean Boardwalk.
On Monday, the town’s tourism commission reviewed the plan’s stated number one goal, entitled “Stay centered: protect and preserve Ocean City’s core values.” Included under the bullet points is providing a safe, clean and environmentally mindful resort and preserving the historic Boardwalk and pristine beaches.
Out of that discussion grew a larger debate about maintaining the cleanliness of the Boardwalk. There are times when the sheer volume of people on the Boardwalk during the height of the summer season results in food wrappers and other trash blowing around, overflowing trash cans on the Boardwalk and on the beach and other evidence of a less-than-tidy society.
Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce CEO and Executive Director Melanie Pursel suggested the private sector could support the town’s public works in maintaining the Boardwalk.
“Maybe the private sector can help the public works department,” she said. “We can’t always put it all on the city.”
Ocean City has been successful in recent years with getting the private sector to help maintain a pristine resort through various initiatives. Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones said those programs could be carried over to the Boardwalk.
“It could almost follow the Adopt Your Beach or Adopt Your Street model,” she said. “The Boardwalk business owners can monitor and police the areas of front of their property.”
Tourism Commission member and Boardwalk business owner Stephanie Meehan said the problem is not always just the tourists. She said she has often observed Boardwalk employees disposing of trash from their stores in the city receptacles.
“I see it all the time,” she said. “A lot of store employees are throwing bags of trash from the stores in the city cans on the Boardwalk instead of walking around to their dumpsters.”
Meehan suggested resort organizations could work with the Boardwalk business owners prior to the start of the season on how they can help.
“Maybe we need to put something together about the rules and regulations,” she said. “Not hard and fast rules necessarily, but just recommendations on how to make the Boardwalk even better.”
Pursel agreed, suggesting also business owners and landlords could implement systems through which the immediate areas in front of their stores could be maintained.
“I do think we need to have something in place and maybe that’s a good start,” she said. “The businesses could designate somebody to go out front every hour or so and police the perimeter of their property.”
The public works department works practically around the clock during the summer to empty trash, sweep the beach and maintain a clean Boardwalk, parks and streets. When asked if the department had employees on call 24 hours a day to empty overflowing trashcans, for example, Council Secretary and committee member Mary Knight said that isn’t always the case.
“If there is an overflowing trash can overnight, probably not,” she said. “If a board came up or something like that, I think they would go out and take care of it.”
Knight added, “People buy food and napkins and things blow away sometimes. We also see drink cups and other trash along the sea wall. Some people just won’t pick up after themselves.”