OCEAN PINES – Officials in Ocean Pines are looking to improve the appearance of the North Gate entryway.
Suggestions for improving the North Gate bridge and the surrounding area were presented to the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors last Saturday. Citing homeowner complaints, Director Frank Daly called on the association to make several enhancements – including power washing and staining the bridge, replacing lights and adding a Christmas display in the guard house – ahead of the holiday season.
“We’re emerging from a pandemic,” he said. “Let’s lighten the place up.”
Homeowner Vivian Koroknay came before the directors at last week’s board meeting to share her complaints regarding the North Gate entrance. She noted she had sent a letter to the board and General Manager John Viola requesting changes be made.
“We’ve been owning here for about 16 years now – we’ve been full-time for about seven – and I can tell you most definitely the appearance of the north entrance has continuously gone downhill, to the point now it is an abominable eyesore …,” she said.
Koroknay noted a recent car accident at the North Gate bridge had damaged the woodwork. She told board members she was hoping the association would make improvements to the entrance in conjunction with the repairs.
“That bridge is in sad shape,” she said. “I understand it’s functional, and I’m not saying we replace the bridge. I’m recommending we replace the wooden structure for the lane guards, the lights, which are filthy, broken, cracked, and have vines growing up the poles … and the guard house.”
She also called for an ongoing maintenance program at the north entrance.
“This is our front door,” she said. “It’s like the curb appeal for our houses. You don’t want to drive up to the house on the block that has the ugliest curb appeal and think, ‘Boy, those people don’t have much pride in where they live,’ or that they can’t take care of it.”
In his report last week, Viola noted the association was working to repair the bridge following the recent car accident, but that delays in acquiring materials could push the completion date out more than three months.
“We are waiting for materials, but it is stabilized. It’s nothing structural …,” he said. “The total is around $15,000. And yes, insurance will be involved one way or the other on that.”
Viola added that officials were receiving bids to power wash the bridge and working with Vista Design to address the approach to the bridge. However, he agreed with Koroknay that more needed to be done at the North Gate entrance.
“I can’t just go in there and redo that bridge, take those lights down, or whatever,” he noted. “It’s a whole process, but I would be glad to do it. Obviously, it would start at the budget process.”
Viola said improvements could start with the guard house, located between the span of bridges.
“I can take out that guard house if instructed. I can’t just go in there and do it,” he said. “But I can tell you this, I can do it. At least it’s a start.”
Officials noted the guard house could also be repurposed, or kept as a historical reference.
“It might be another option to take a look at,” Director Doug Parks said.
Daly said he was bringing complaints to the board in the hopes of moving forward with some improvements.
“I’ve heard over the years we refer to the North Gate bridge as iconic,” he said. “I kind of refer to it as dilapidated. It’s showing its age, period.”
Daly noted the bridge is slated for replacement in 2034, but that it was still structurally sound.
“If we replace it tomorrow we would probably pay 100% of the replacement cost,” he said. “If we wait until it structurally deteriorates, we get a contribution from the state and county, which I believe is 80% of the replacement cost. So that’s a major factor.”
He added the association also had to be cognizant of any future improvements to Route 589.
“The other thing is if we had the money to do it and the inclination to replace the bridge today, I don’t know what we’d do because the bridge dumps out on the Route 589/Route 90 corridor, and it would be nice to know if we are going to have a stoplight there, a circle there, a two-lane road there, or a four-lane road there,” he said. “The truth of the matter is if you ask people responsible for that at the county and state level, their response back to you is ‘I don’t know what, and I don’t know when, those changes would be made.’”
In the meantime, Daly said he was recommending some cosmetic changes to the North Gate entrance.
“I really think given the lousy year most of the people in this community have had, I would be in favor of shutting down the North Gate entrance for several days, power washing it, staining it … making sure the lights all match, putting up some Christmas decorations …,” he said.
While the lights being used on the bridge are no longer manufactured, Viola said he could look into replacing them with another option.
“We tried to change them years ago, but we had a lot of pushback,” he said. “Maybe that’s changed.”
Viola told the directors he would put together a plan for improving the North Gate entrance.
“Just say something, and I’ll call a special meeting and put the motion forward,” Daly said. “But let’s get it done for the holiday season.”
Association President Larry Perrone agreed.
“Whatever we can do to spruce it up, I agree we should go ahead and get it done,” he said.