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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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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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