(Oct. 25, 2013) Ocean City Council gave the go-ahead this week on an initiative to solicit bids for a vendor to rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards at Northside Park beginning in the 2014 summer season.
The town will be issuing a Request for Proposals to find a qualified vendor – and also the one who is willing to pay the highest fee – to enter into a concession agreement with the town, whereby the vendor would be able to operate a specified rental business on public property.
The Parks and Recreation Commission had originally been approached by an established local rental business that was offering to establish a concession in the park outright, Councilman and Commission Chair Joe Mitrecic said. Although he found the idea to be a good one, the city cannot simply award a contract to the first person who asks, Mitrecic noted.
“We were actually contacted by a kayak and stand-up paddleboard business that wanted to just move in,” he said. “We said that was probably not the way to handle it, and it should go out to RFP and give everyone a chance to bid. It’s a huge, huge business.”
Per the bid documents, the contract will be good for two years, lasting through the fall of 2015. The vendor will operate from May 1 through the first weekend in October of both 2014 and 2015.
Hours of operation will be at the vendor’s discretion, with the stipulation that no vessels are launched prior to 7 a.m. and must be returned by dusk. The concession must also be closed by 3 p.m. on Sundays during the high season for the Sundaes in the Park concerts and fireworks.
The vendor will be allotted storage racks and an office shed of no more than 120 square feet in the vicinity of the pier on the park’s west side. Rented vessels can be launched at the small “dog beach” – so named because dogs frequently go in the water there – to the south of the pier.
“The public will still be able to use the beach,” Mitrecic noted.
The vendor will be required to hold a $1 million insurance policy, and exempt the town from any liability incurred by the operation.
Hopes were high that the popularity of stand-up paddleboarding, in particular, would draw more visitors to the city’s largest public space.
“It’s part of eco-tourism, which is really big right now, and this allows us to expand on that,” said Mayor Rick Meehan.
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas asked if the city was at risk of stepping on anyone’s toes by offering a town-sanctioned rental business.
“That’s not going to weather very well with people who are already renting kayaks and paddleboards,” she said.
“Every company out there will have the same ability to bid as everyone else,” said Mitrecic. “The town itself is not getting into the kayak business.”