This summer is going to be unique, but Ocean City learned last weekend it must prepare for this season like it would any other.
It was clear last week’s crowds surprised everyone in Ocean City, but it should not have in hindsight. The weather forecast was favorable for the beach. Hotels and motels were immediately flooded with bookings as soon as Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan lifted the ban on short-term rentals last Thursday. Though not all hotels were open last weekend, most that were reported being at or near capacity. The beach and Boardwalk in certain areas and times were crowded like a normal summer day.
The city clearly underestimated the influx of recent college graduates who showed up in large numbers as well as the outliers who come to Ocean City whenever there is a vehicle event planned. Both groups were well represented.
Last weekend was to be Cruisin weekend. To be clear, the crowds were diminished compared to if the actual event occurred. However, it was still the busiest weekend of the year by far. Ocean City government should have known it would be busy. It was surprising to see how unprepared the city was at times. Early Saturday and Sunday mornings, trash cans were overflowing on the beach and Boardwalk with debris blowing all over the place. Law enforcement seemed to be blindsided by the rabble-rousers who came to town to spinout and wreak havoc. It seemed they expected it to be slow.
If anything was learned from last weekend, it’s that people want to be out and about. Ocean City should have known that ahead of last weekend, but it clearly was unprepared. City Manager Doug Miller said as much this week.
“We were admittedly caught off guard,” he said on Monday. “Last weekend was far from a soft opening, not just for Ocean City. We have learned a lot and we’re ready for Memorial Day with the services that underperformed last weekend.”
Meehan also addressed city services being clearly overwhelmed, saying, “The city manager commented we underperformed last weekend. That’s unfortunate. We should never have that in Ocean City.”
Bigger crowds are expected this weekend even with a mixed weather forecast. Ocean City government needs to be prepared for a holiday weekend. There is little for visitors to do while here currently outside of hitting the beach, walking the Boardwalk fishing, boating and eating carryout. The amusements and related amenities will not be open and neither will the restaurants for inside or outside dining.
Though this summer might be different as far as overall volume of visitors, Ocean City can’t operate under that assumption like it did last weekend. We are confident resort leaders will get back on track this weekend.