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Ocean City

Horseback riding ‘back in the saddle’ before Rec and Parks

(Nov. 15, 2013) With public backlash against a proposal to allow surf fishing vehicles on the beach still fresh, committee members broached the issue of commercialized horseback riding on Ocean City’s beach at the city’s Recreation and Parks Committee meeting on Tuesday.

The request for proposal is different from the measure passed by the city council in 2011, which allowed horseback riding on the beach from 27th Street to the inlet from Nov. 1 to March 30 for paying permit holders.

The new request would commercialize beach riding, providing horses “for rent” on Ocean City’s shoreline for purposes that could include riding lessons, guided rides, school and community programs and therapeutic riding.

City Council Member Dennis Dare noted that beach riding “hadn’t really been that popular” in the past, with no permits issued last year and less than 10 issued in 2011.

City Manager David Recor suggested bumping up the dates on the RFP to January 2014, rather than November 2014, to get the program started this winter.

Council President Lloyd Martin’s suggestion was to “give the public plenty of notice” as the RFP progresses. The committee will forward the RFP to City Solicitor Guy Ayres for approval and to the city council for its opinion.

With an ever-growing list of events during the summer season, the committee also discussed double- and triple-loading some weekends with events in 2014.

Promoters of the popular OC Air Show are requesting to hold the annual event June 14-15 next summer, the same weekend as Arts Alive and Wine in the Park, Rec and Parks Superintendent of Special Events Frank Miller said.

The move could help the city “wean” itself off the Air Show, Miller said. “From our perspective, I’m fine with it being the 14th and the 15th.”

Other concerns about the date arose, however, including parking conflicts at the 41st Street convention center due to an overlap with the annual Maryland State Firemen’s Association Convention and Conference in town June 14-20 and a potential overlap with the start of the Dew Tour setup.

The Harrison Group, which owns 10 resort hotels, will work with the city on whatever dates it chooses, Miller said.

Ocean City Air Show Director of Sponsorship and Hospitality Sales Steven Webster is expected to file the private events application with the Rec and Parks department this week. It will go to the city council for approval by the end of December or early January, Miller said.

Springfest 2015 is slated to coincide with Mother’s Day on May 10, but that shouldn’t be a problem, based on committee discussions.

Susan Jones, director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, and Melanie Pursel, director of the Chamber of Commerce, said “they would be willing to support — and their board members would be willing to support — the idea of doing an overall Mother’s Day promotion to go along with Springfest 2015,” city Private Events Coordinator Lisa Mitchell said.

She emailed 250 Springfest vendors, 57 of which responded, with “mainly positive” feedback about the date. It will go to City Council for approval.

Finally, Ocean City Downtown Association Board Member Nancy Howard brought attendance at this year’s Drive in Disguise to the committee’s attention, hoping to improve next year’s event on the Boardwalk.

The third annual Drive in Disguise brought 42 cars with vintage Ocean City license plates to the boards Oct. 19, the same day as the Making Strides Against Cancer run and Howl-O-Ween Pet Parade, Howard said. “We were just realizing that people can’t be in two places at one time.”

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity with Drive in Disguise,” Miller said. He suggested packaging several “micro-events” together, like a pumpkin carving contest in conjunction with the Boardwalk drive.

“It could turn that weekend into a great weekend for the Boardwalk merchants,” City Council Member Joe Mitrecic said.

Howard suggested Recreation and Parks designate a person to help orchestrate the larger event and communicate with event organizers, an idea the committee will consider.

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