Ocean City Tests the Future Boardwalk at 12th Street

The city experiments with three new materials in its search for a more durable boardwalk deck.

A sea of gray and splintered pine surrounds small square of unweathered wood on the deck of the Ocean City Boardwalk near 12th Street.

Three types of wood make up the patch — an experiment in Ocean City's quest to find a material that can endure through salt water, sun, storms and time.

The city has long been frustrated with the quality and durability of the southern yellow pine that has traditionally been used to deck the boardwalk. Changes in the preservatives used to pressure-treat the wood have made yellow pine even less reliable. The wood cracks and splinters, exposing screws and leaving an uneven surface.

The city has committed to spending close to $10 million over nine years to entirely replace the boardwalk between Fifth and 12th streets. The project had been scheduled to start this year, but the city administration balked. Before making the investment, they want to find a material that can stand the test of time.

Three of products under consideration:

  • TimberSIL: "A fusion of steel-strong glass fibers inside and outside of wood fibers and cell walls forms a glass-wood matrix," according to the company that makes it. TimberSIL boasts that its product is fire retardant, made from recycled material, rot-resistant and strong as steel.
  • Siberian Larch: A hardwood imported from Russia that claims to be the "last sustainable, old growth timber in the world." Siberian larch sellers suggest that buildings and churches made from the wood have stood for 800 years.
  • Bamboo: A composite of bamboo fibers and recycled plastics.

Not under consideration is ipe — a tropical hardwood that has proven effective, strong and still smooth in a section near the southern end of the Ocean City Boardwalk that was decked in 1988. The city has $275,000 worth of ipe in storage — left untouched after a lengthy controversy over its potential use. Many had objected to using ipe because the wood is harvested from threatened rain forests.

Ocean City Business Administrator Mike Dattilo said 20 of 72 lots of the city's ipe are now being auctioned on govdeals.com (follow link to see detail). The city has set minimum bids, and none has been sold.

Dattilo said Ocean City, Md., has decked part of its boardwalk with TimberSIL, but the test is only a year old.

He any of the products under consideration would be more expensive than southern yellow pine but would likely be less expensive than ipe.

The test patches at 12th Street were created in September and are marked with dates. But City Council will likely make a decision on a potential material for the first phase of boardwalk reconstruction (Fifth to Sixth streets) before the city can see how the samples react over time.

Capital workshops are scheduled for the fall, and council will address the plans as part of that process, Dattilo said.


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RhondaVW October 04, 2012 at 02:18 AM
For the record, to my knowledge there is no "recycled plastic" in the laminated bamboo. All of the Siberian Larch was installed incorrectly or poorly and half of it was sealed with an unknown coating. And there is no TimberSil installed despite claims to the contrary.
Eric Sauder October 04, 2012 at 02:48 AM
I have to laugh. Me too. I sure as heck wouldn't make that kind of investment today. But you know if I left here what would I do? This place keeps you hopping if you pay any attention to what's happening. Everyday its something new. But I do have my days when I want to get as far away from here as possible.
Sam Lavner October 04, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Linda - Rhonda is right....too long a story to recount here. Suffice it to say that what the city did then was dictated by a petty, spiteful mayor and a feckless council. Exhibit one: When the mayor was out-maneuvered and compelled to cancel the Grasmick contract (for a clear cut case of failure to perform) Perillo announced the canellation in a press release that characterized Grasmick, who we were entering into a hostile relationship with, as a hero of 9/11 and loaded up the press release with implications that we should not cancel the order. There's tons more like that....about 6 months ago in one of those household purges, I threw out two cases of documents from the Grasmick fiasco - two thousand pages and thousands more illustrations of all that can go wrong when the wrong people get into government.
Linda October 04, 2012 at 03:37 AM
You are right Rhonda, he should have been banned but when the only people who can do that are your buddies...... and the corruption beat goes on.
Linda October 04, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Sam - I just about lost my dinner when you said you threw all of that evidence out! When the wrong people are in government you just can't win unless you are willing to sacrifice your life to beat them. I really need to do my research and find out who the city hall players are, their backgrounds and voting records. I'm kind of new on the scene.
Eleanor October 04, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Common sense and good oversight of the peoples money says that first you use what you have sitting in storage. Its bought and paid for and does the job very well. If you need more, go to another of the hardwoods mentioned in this article, but to ignore or try to auction it off is time consuming, inefficient and says you made a mistake with 275,000 of the peoples money.
Sam Lavner October 04, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Linda - No worries - It's on the record. I was not lamenting "throwing out records" but recalling at pleasant experience: purging my tangible reminders of that fiasco.
Steven October 04, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Sam - Who recieved this shipment, and why was it not checked before payment was issued? Since we have enough ipe to do 1/3 of a block, well then let's use it. Lets look at the rest of the "random width" pieces and see if they can be (in carpenter's terms) ripped for use. It's not doing any good sitting in a pile, right? The envoromental issue, as stated above is a moot point. Rhonda: Wouldn't it make sense to use the ipe nailers and shims if needed? An auction would typically yield a return that is a faction amount of current market valve, yes?
Steven October 04, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Our current City Council: http://services.ocnj.us/YourGovernment/CityCouncil/tabid/102/Default.aspx
jenn October 04, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Eleanor, did you read what was said about the ipe in storage? And yes - Perillo made a huge "mistake" with the peoples' money and ipe was just his biggest and most horrid, but not his only. Did you read what was said here by those who researched, got involved and have the information? Rhonda and Sam are both experts on this subject yet you totally ignore what they said. And Linda, in Ocean City, the city council is made up of (for the most part) people who have their own personal agendas with no regard for good of the community. Decisions are made for their buddies and for their own self interests (for the most part.) And once you start looking beneath the surface, you will lose your dinner alright.
RhondaVW October 04, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Actually Eleanor the cost of the mistakes made by the Perillo administration and the engineering department are in the millions and counting. The small amount of lumber in storage is unusable which of course you know as I'm sure you have inspected it or at least reviewed the lot descriptions. Common sense says that when you find yourself in a hole the first step is to stop digging, which, in my opinion, is what the current administration is trying to do by salvaging as much as they can from Perillo's Boardwalk wreckage.
Steven October 04, 2012 at 02:39 PM
As per Sam: http://www.ocsentinel.com/article.php?article_id=4059
Lisa Anderson Yoskin October 04, 2012 at 03:12 PM
To not use the ipe that the trees have already been killed for means the trees dies in vain. Use what you got, then by something else if more is needed. Don't know why this would even be an issue. Sounds stupid not to use something you already have.
Linda October 04, 2012 at 03:24 PM
jenn October 04, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Lisa - Please read Rhonda's remarks. The ipe that is stored is UNUSABLE. There is a small group who are experts on this subject. Sam and Rhonda are part of that group. So making generalizations and casual remarks without paying attention to the experts is just a waste. Either really pay attention, or don't comment.
J Dougherty October 04, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Steven - Your point is???? I just read this and it is absolutely authoritative, cogent, and persuasive (and beautifully written, for what that matters).
Eric Sauder October 04, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Cindy Nevitt has a detailed inventory of the ipe in the city's inventory. Check out her story in shorenewstoday for specifics..
Linda October 04, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Please read the entire thread before commenting. The information in this thread will give you all of the information about this sad state of affairs.
Linda October 04, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Thank you Steven.
Linda October 04, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Thank you for posting this history Steven. @ JDougherty please read the entire thread to understand why this link was posted.
J Dougherty October 05, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Linda - I read the thread. The Lavner story makes an excellent argument for not using the ipe in stock. Steven posted it. Steven's comments support using the ipe. Which is it?
RhondaVW October 05, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Steven, to replace decking on the current structure we need material that is 12' long. In reality the lumber should be 3x6 material and 2x6 at a minimum but for several reasons the engineering department ordered 2x4 ipe which is inadequate for the truck traffic. That said, if you can search through the ipe being auctioned and find 1/3 of a block worth, or 12,000 sqft, of 1.5" x 3.5" x 12' long boards let me know. Likewise, if you can take some of the 3', 5', or 6' long ipe and cut it into something 12' long I would be much more inclined to listen to your arguments. I'm not sure where above the environmental concerns were rendered moot but using the shim and nailer material certainly is a moot point as those pieces were ordered specifically to attempt makeshift repairs that ended up costing more per square foot than it would to completely replace the Boardwalk. If you walk along the outer edge of the boardwalk between between 9th and 10th street you can easily spot the "repairs" that were attempted there. In fact, if you walk along the entire boardwalk you will see more recent "Perillo repair" attempts that are already failing and since I don't believe the current administration is likely to repeat those mistakes there simply is no need for that random material.
John Hayes October 05, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Are we sure this won't endanger the Siberian larch tree frog?
OC Squid October 05, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Siberian Larch tree frogs are delicious and should not be wasted
NitWit October 05, 2012 at 11:34 PM
And so the nitwits get the final word (including this post, if you like)
Jason philbin November 22, 2012 at 04:08 AM
To truly answer the issue at hand (alternate material that does not rot, twist, decay over time, more durable), the city needs to look into this precast concrete boardwalk that was recently used by two national wildlife refuges close to ocean city. I won't say more, visit permatrak.com and read up yourself,
Ellen November 22, 2012 at 04:22 AM
Eric your question was "if I left here what would I do"? Well unless you need an ocean in order to breathe, consider the Colorado mountains, on a lake, tall pines, long walks thru the woods, fish on the lake in the summer and REALLY have something to look at. There are so many absolutely beautiful and ZEN places to live in this country that offer us space to dream and live our dreams. So often we get pigeon holed into this East Coast cramped lifestyle as the be all and end all. It is not. .
christopher November 22, 2012 at 04:17 PM
And Perillo is gone, but the members of council who were involved in this mess are still there - Hartzell, Ping and Allegretto. They are still on council in spite of the mess and horrible waste of money that took place that they allowed. How are they still on council? That is a question for the electorate who vote in the good old boys club no matter how they fail at their jobs. Some of these council people, like Harzell, is so intent on running for mayor at some point that he operatores by the numbers and who is pulling his strings - not by what is best for the community. He doesn't investigate the matter, he listens to the guys whispering sweet nothings. Next time, don't vote back in the same guys who play the game instead of doing the right thing.
William Douglas November 26, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Glad to see them trying TimberSIL in their design,here is a link I found from TimberSIL California working with Yosemite Conservancy and US Forest Service. Wetlands Restoration at Tenaya Lake,Yosemite national park bridges and boardwalks. http://timbersil.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/timbersil-wood-bridge-2-tenaya-lane-yosemite-nation-park/
Louise April 24, 2013 at 01:11 PM
IPE has functioned well at the south, residential section of the BW--still looks great after 25 years! If those in charge, don't want to continue using something that functions well, b/c of the Rain Forest deforestation, then why not use HDPE, manufactured from recycled plastic? Using the basic design element: “The principle is that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose,” each plank of the BW functions as walkboards for the enjoyment of all. The current Southern Yellow Pine (in the CBD of the BW) requires daily maintenance, while the countersunk IPE does not--therefore the building spec for the functioning material should be something that withstands daily wear and tear of the elements of Mother Nature and people. Cite: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Form_follows_function


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