Back on June 20, 1986, the headline in this newspaper read, “The Tidal Wave rides again, but controversial roller coaster told to move.”
It was an unfortunate mistake then and it’s the same situation this week, oddly enough for the same property. The Ocean City Council had no other choice but to stand firm 35 years ago this month and the same goes for this week’s situation.
Back in October, the Ocean City Mayor and Council did not officially take a position on a request from Trimper’s Rides to have the Big Wheel hang over the Boardwalk. It was a mistake to not put a vote on the record, but what was clear is permission was not granted to encroach on the public right of way. The majority of the council expressed clear opposition to the request, but the matter was ultimately referred for more staff review and more discussion at a future work session. The meeting never came.
Fast forward to last week and concerns immediately started to be heard during the construction of the 150-foot Ferris wheel. It was not in the same position as last year. It was closer to the boards in the area where the former Zipper ride was located. The assumption among some was Trimper’s and the ride owner, Wood Entertainment, had found a way to position the Ferris wheel to accomplish their goal of having it in the sightlines of Boardwalk-goers to improve admission sales. An error, according to amusement park officials, in the construction and measurements of the Big Wheel led to about 10 feet of overhang over the Boardwalk. The city has fined the operators and the ride would have to be relocated to continue operating. Rather than spend about $100,000 to tear the ride down and site it westward bringing it into compliance, the Big Wheel will move out of town early next week.
The issue here is the city code, not objects hypothetically being dropped from an enclosed gondola. Violating the code as well as going against clear opposition from the council on the request is the concern City Hall needs to be worried about. Permission was never given. The ride was constructed with the encroachment.
The city needs to look no further than across the street for a precedent. In 1986, the council voted 5-1 (with property owner and council president Granville Trimper abstaining) to shut the Tidal Wave roller coaster down as a result of a safety inspection section encroaching 3.2 feet onto South 1st Street. The council considered allowing Trimper’s to operate the ride for the summer with promises to address encroachment over the off-season, but in the end the council opted it was too dangerous to set the precedent, especially considering Trimper was a colleague. The station was trimmed to come into compliance within the week.
Thirty-five years later, the same precedent logic applies today with this week’s Big Wheel situation.