With Assateague’s popularity surging amid more vehicle traffic than ever, it’s time for the National Park Service to weigh changes to address public safety and wildlife welfare.
Moonshadow’s death this week is not the first time a horse has died after being struck by a vehicle. In fact, since 1982, 35 horses have been fatally hit by vehicles and 18 injured. There have been five hit-and-run accidents, as was the case when Moonshadow and her foul were struck sometime last week.
In efforts to address public safety on the island, the National Park Service has worked with the Maryland Department of Transportation in the past to lower the speed limit on the island, reducing it to 30 mph on Route 611 once over the bridge and then 25 mph on Bayberry Drive leading to the national park area.
The speed limit is unfortunately only as good as the metal signs it posted on without a proper level of enforcement, which is always a struggle on Assateague. There are not enough rangers to actively monitor the entire island during the peak season. The rangers are unable to ensure speed limits are adhered to regularly. It’s why we think the idea of temporary speed bumps in high-traffic areas deserves some consideration.
A change.org petition calling for speed bumps on Assateague Island is logical. As of Thursday at 11 a.m., more than 4,600 signatures supported speed bumps. However, online polls will only go so far, and officials said this week the best way to enact change – whether it be reduced speed limits, additional law enforcement or speed bumps – is to contact elected representatives to help argue the case.
Berlin desperately needs to obtain a demolition grant to secure any value from a potential Heron Park sale. The appraisal of the 9.35-acre Parcel 57 property came back at a paltry $100,000. The property – part of the 60-acre Heron property purchased for $2.5 million five years ago – consists of the former poultry plant’s processing facility and office space. The buildings are dilapidated and unsafe for any future use.
The first thing any buyer of the site will do is demolish the structures for likely residential redevelopment. If the pathetic value placed on the property proves anything, it shows how critical the town’s efforts to secure a demolition grant are to the property’s future. For Berlin, maximizing the sale amount is critical to reduce the amount of debt payments – more than $200,000 annually.
“Based on a review of sales and offerings of raw residential land in the vicinity, we estimate a unit value of $20,000 per lot, or $660,000 for a cleared, clean, level site, equivalent to a cornfield of piece of level pasture, with sewer and water at the lot line,” the appraisal reads. “Client provided a Budgetary Estimate for Heron Park – Demolition, dated October 2020, by DBF, of $552,480. This is the estimated cost to remove the existing building and perform related site clearance. It does not include any work related to the creation of a residential subdivision. The property would then be equivalent to raw land.”
The town was denied the critical demo grant last year, but Mayor Zack Tyndall confirmed this week the town has reapplied with the state again this week for the grant to raze all the existing structures. The difference between this grant application and the previously denied one is it includes letters of support from members of the local shore delegation.
The appraisal document sums up the grim prospect of selling Parcel 57 saying, “The market might well add for profit, holding/carrying cost, liability, a minimum of 20% to the demolition cost figure, making an adjusted demolition cost of $662,976, which would leave an as-is value of effectively $0. We conclude that the as-is value of this property is near zero. We have concluded a token figure of $100,000 for as-is value. The market would probably consider any offer.”
When Ocean City makes national news, it’s almost always for the wrong reasons. It says more about how the media world works than Ocean City. Positive attributes like cleanliness, safety, top-notch accommodations, wide beaches, family fun and world-class fishing and golfing do not garner national headlines. However, a fireworks explosion on the morning of July 4 will gather attention and rightfully so.
There were more questions than answers this week about the fireworks mishap. The early cause guess by Ocean City fire officials was an unintended discharge led to multiple fireworks being set off unexpectedly. Most of us concluded the exact same thing minutes after the situation. The fact the experts confirm it was an accident is one part of the story here. Other concerns are whether the discharge occurred because of human error or if it was a faulty product.
The big question moving forward for Ocean City officials is how to handle the situation with the contractor – Starfire Corporation. Ocean City should certainly not have to pay for the fireworks, but the question moving forward will be whether the town will seek a refund of any money already paid out or look to schedule another fireworks show in the near future.
There is a potential marketing play here. If the safety issues are addressed adequately, I think the town should create a new fireworks celebration, perhaps on Aug. 4, as a spin on the 4th of July festivities that all went wrong.