OCEAN PINES – Officials say a new workgroup will identify ways to improve bike and pedestrian safety and access in Ocean Pines.
Last Saturday, Ocean Pines resident Patti Stevens presented the Ocean Pines Board of Directors with an update on the new Ocean Pines Pedestrian and Bike Safety and Access Workgroup. As bike and pedestrian improvement efforts continue throughout the county, she said a new workgroup will demonstrate the association’s commitment to doing the same.
“There are simple things we can do within Ocean Pines,” she said. “My proposal was to convene a workgroup that included the business community, residents, public safety.”
Stevens, chair of the Worcester County Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition and appointee to the Maryland Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, said Ocean Pines has several opportunities to improve existing infrastructure within the community. She added that the desire for safe biking and walking trails were identified as a top priority within the association’s strategic plan.
“In our community many people live here because they want an active lifestyle, to walk and to bike safely,” she said. “And not just recreationally. Many people walk to work.”
By forming a new workgroup, she said members could prioritize needed improvements, identify available resources, and partner with county and state agencies.
For example, she said there was an opportunity to work alongside Worcester County, which recently contracted with Mead & Hunt to develop a Greenways and Trails Plan that identifies ways to connect communities. She also noted that the state continues with its planning for the Route 90 bridge.
“Ocean Pines, Ocean City, all around Worcester County, people said loudly and clearly we want to have bike and pedestrian access on that bridge,” she said, noting that all four options for the redevelopment of the Route 90 bridge included the option for bike and pedestrian access. “It’s only going to be a lane on the bridge. But we still have to get people to the bridge.”
Stevens told the board last week communities around the state with bike and pedestrian plans have obtained state grants and technical assistance. She said Ocean Pines has the opportunity to do the same.
“There are grants for public safety and trails and sidewalks that could be built …,” she said. “The good news is that Ocean Pines has the authority to manage our roads … I think that’s a bonus for Ocean Pines.”
Stevens said her vision was to see a connection between the north and south gates of Ocean Pines, so that pedestrians and bicyclists can access the Route 90 bridge. To do so, she said, would require the acquisition of rights-of-way in between.
“That’s why I propose we have a Realtor on the committee,” she said.
Director Steve Jacobs questioned if the association would be eligible for grant funding. He noted that Ocean Pines was not a municipality.
“It’s a homeowners association and our ability to tap into certain financial opportunities is hampered or prohibited because of that …,” he said. “The type of grants you are talking about, do they have that sort of limitation?”
Stevens said she had asked county leaders if Ocean Pines could partner with Worcester County to apply for grant funding. She noted, however, that she was turned down.
“I went through Dallas Baker and public works assuming that is the way Ocean Pines would have to go to apply for these sidewalk and bicycle retrofit grants …,” she replied. “When I went through that way, I was told quite firmly that the county is not responsible for our opportunities and that Ocean Pines has, in the past, received direct money from State Highway for roads, and that that was our problem and we should take care of it.”
After further discussion, Stevens said the workgroup would hold a kickoff meeting this week.