There was a lot of unjustified outrage this week over the Ocean City St. Patrick’s Parade being cancelled. It was a no-brainer decision that seemed inevitable.
The only way this event could possibly be held under the current health advisories – remember crowd sizes in excess of 10 individuals are still discouraged – is without attendees and no festival. There was no reasonable way for that to happen. It takes all the fun out of the event. It would also be an enforcement and logistical impossibility for police along the one-mile-plus route. Maybe the parade could be live streamed, so the bars could play the live video, but it’s just not worth it for the entrants to go to the trouble of getting in the spirit just for a judge’s stand. Take away the crowds and the fun gathering area at 45th Street and there’s not much of an event.
This was not a tough decision in my estimation for the Delmarva Irish-American Club. The call was essentially made for officials due to current safety restrictions and guidelines. In a statement, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, who also serves as club president, said, “This was the first event in 2020 that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the DIAC, along with the Town of Ocean City, is hopeful that this will be the last event to be canceled.”
This is an interesting comment and perhaps the most intriguing aspect surrounding the entire parade cancellation story. It’s reasonable to hope for this to be the last event canceled in 2021, but the reality is if large-scale events can proceed as scheduled most of them will be forced to look quite different. For instance, tweaks will surely need to be made for Springfest in May if it can occur. It’s unlikely alcohol sales will be permitted because of crowd gathering, the typical food tent is a health safety nightmare and live music remains a question mark. Moving forward in 2021, my hope is we eventually get on a track that progresses toward normalcy. It’s not happening yet. Maybe just maybe, holding modified events adhering to the current restrictions of the day should be the goal. The desire to not cancel further events is fine so long as it comes with tempered expectations. These events will surely look much different than we would like this year. Coming off 2020, I think that’s acceptable.
It’s nice when issues discussed during election season carry over to becoming reality. This appears to be the case in Berlin with the skate park concept.
The conversation surrounding a skate park in Berlin dates back at least 10 years, but it kicked into another gear when some volunteers set up some monthly skating and biking activities at the Heron Park parking lot area three years ago. Back in 2014, members of the Berlin Parks Commission visited parks in Ocean Pines and Ocean City. Interested citizens were told by members of the parks commission to consider creating a non-profit organization to fulfill their goal of having a bike and skate facility for the youth as well as interested adults. Dozens of skateboard enthusiasts even attended a council meeting rallying for a designated effort. The momentum fizzled as supporters got discouraged by the lack of progress. The safety and congestion concerns with skateboarding on Main Street have continued to be a concern. As recently as January of 2107, members of the Berlin Town Council assured a skate park project was “one of the highest priorities,” according to then-Mayor Gee Williams. Realizing it was a long-term effort, citizens then received approval to set up temporary ramps and obstacles at the Heron Park parking lot. The monthly events attracted solid crowds. It’s clear the interest is there.
For the first time, Berlin seems intent now on making a skate park concept a reality. It will not happen overnight, but Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing told the town council Monday his department would contribute $1,000 to the effort. He said, “The police department has the first $1,000. We’ll go ahead and ask the businesses downtown to go ahead and help support any program that will go ahead and bring forth safe activity for our children. We support little league, youth football. We support all those. We can do the exact same thing with the skateboard situation.”
The skate park concept was discussed by Berlin Council candidate Tony Weeg multiple times last fall in the weeks leading up to the election. He advocated specifically for a pump track, which is ideal for young skaters featuring various different berms and rollers. On the Facebook page “We Love Berlin,” he created during his campaign, he wrote yesterday, “They are paying attention to us! This is great. This is how we move stuff forward! Thank you to the Mayor and Council, and especially Chief Downing for vocalizing your support – that meant the world!” Weeg is also using his Facebook page to further another worthwhile effort of adding outdoor ping pong tables to the severely underutilized Burbage Park off William Street.
I agree with Councilman Troy Purnell’s observation this week when he said, “Yeah it’s going to take some money and we’re going to have to determine a space for it but I think it’s definitely necessary. There’s more young kids in town than I’ve ever seen in my life.”
We need to make it happen.