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Facility Profile - July/August 2004

On the Boardwalk

Ocean City’s Boardwalk in Maryland

By Elisa Kronish


From October through May, Ocean City, Md., is a quiet seaside town of about 11,000 people. But come summer, it swells into a bustling tourist destination of nearly 350,000 per weekend, making it the second largest city in Maryland by population.

The main attraction is the 2.5-mile Boardwalk, which dates back to 1902, when owners of oceanfront hotels would lay down temporary boards in the sand each night to allow their glamorous guests to stroll along the beach after dinner. In 1910, a permanent walkway was constructed but destroyed by a storm in 1962. Now, after rebuilding and revitalization, the Boardwalk is once again a hub of warm-weather activity, attracting 8 million vacationers annually from every state and many countries around the world.

Honoring its past, many buildings from the early 20th century have been renovated for reuse, taking visitors back to a bygone era. This charming strip of hotels, restaurants, shops and amusement park rides includes the 1923 Lankford Hotel, the 1926 Pier Building and the double-tiered 1912 Trimper's Carousel, the oldest continuously operating carousel in the country. Some outdoor furnishings have recently been updated to complement the historic sensibility of Ocean City.

"The town business owners went before the mayor and city council because they decided they wanted a new look [for the Boardwalk]," says Bruce Gibbs, superintendent of parks, maintenance division, in Ocean City. In 2000, to brighten up the Boardwalk's appearance, white decorative street lamps were added, as were Victorian-style benches, and new planters for flowers and bushes. Even old trash cans were swapped out for more stylish ones.

The trash receptacles had previously been plain 55-gallon steel drums with an interior bag. The new cans, also 55-gallon capacity, were purchased from Kettle Creek Corporation (dba Windsor Barrel Works) and run for about a third of the three-mile stretch of the Boardwalk. These dark-green receptacles, made from recycled plastic lumber and cast-aluminum, have aluminum rims painted white around the top and bottom. One sixth-inch lath of aluminum, with a white vinyl coating, runs down one side and sports the Boardwalk's distinctive new logo, which is also highlighted on the brand-new Boardwalk gateway arch.

"We bought 120 in the first phase, about five to seven on each block," Gibbs says, adding that the city's plan calls for phasing in more trash cans, benches and street lamps to complete the new look by 2005. The city bought an additional 40 brown containers with black rims (no Boardwalk logo) to replace old steel drums along streets further inland.

"The trash cans are expensive, so we did it in phases," he explains.

But the expense seems worth it, as the Boardwalk has some fierce weather conditions to contend with: Northeaster winds that frequently gust up to 60 mph, blowing sand, intense sun, spraying sea water and hurricanes from August through October. Gibbs says the city tried the Kettle Creek cans before laying out the funds.

"These adhered to our weather limitations," Gibbs says. Even so, the paint faded somewhat after the first year, but Gibbs expected that. "It's just the weather we get is so extreme," he says.

The cans have been repainted, and to try to avoid it happening again, Kettle Creek took samples of the materials and examined what the exact cause of the fading might be. The studies found the Boardwalk receptacles that fared the worst happened to be sitting on concrete, which was pressure-washed every morning. So, the company concluded that it was a combination of severe weather and the pressure cleaning. Basically, the fading seems unavoidable. To minimize the effects, though, the city leaves only a few trash cans on the Boardwalk and streets during the off-season when, Gibbs says, there are only 75 to 100 visitors each weekend.

During summer, each of the 120 trash receptacles gets plenty of use. The cans are open on top, favoring fashion over seagull appetites.

"I tried to push the covered look because of the seagulls—all those French fries, popcorn, candy—they like to pick through the garbage for all that, but the look [of the open top] was the main thing we liked," Gibbs says. For easy collection, the cans have interior plastic barrels that are filled with plastic bags.

"So many people are on the Boardwalk that it's safer to take the bags out than to have to dump the whole can," Gibbs explains.

Receptacles placed about a block and a half from the food vendors get the most attention.

"People tend to drop their trash rather than carry it to a trash can, so we try to estimate about how long it takes someone to eat, say, a hot dog, and we put a can just about at that point," explains Gibbs, who hopes this prevents people from simply dropping trash on the ground. Gibbs realizes, though, that the throngs of people make it tricky to navigate to a trash can sometimes.

"It might be a little bit of a task just to get to a can because there are so many people along the Boardwalk," he says. They can't put the receptacles in the middle of the Boardwalk because it would be an obstacle for people. So the cans are emptied continuously from 6 a.m. to midnight.

"There are that many people who use them," Gibbs says.

The millions of visitors to Ocean City each year might not pay particular attention to the new trash cans, but Gibbs hopes that the appealing style will draw more people to ditch their popcorn bags, saltwater-taffy wrappers and fried-chicken baskets in the cans rather than on the beach or Boardwalk.

"Either way, they look better, they smell better, and they're more appealing all around," Gibbs says.

For more information
Ocean City Convention and Visitors Bureau and Department of Tourism: www.ococean.com

Kettle Creek Corporation: 800-527-7848 x202
or info@kettlecreek.com