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South-Enders Rally in Search of Sand

But the odds of securing a beach-replenishment project remain unclear.

A large gathering of south-end residents helped pack the lecture room at the Ocean City Free Public Library for Thursday night's City Council meeting as the neighbors pleaded for help in saving their severely eroded beach.

Even months before Superstorm Sandy struck on Oct. 29, the beach between 50th and 59th streets disappeared during high tides. But the storm completely wiped out protective dunes and left that part of the island defenseless against future storms.

A succession of south-enders spoke in the public comment portion at the start of the meeting. They asked City Council and the city administration to take action to protect property, to preserve the greatest asset of a tourist economy and to afford the south end the same consideration as other parts of the island.

"We need sand, and we need it this year," Simpson Avenue resident Al Grohe said to a round of applause.

"We've been told by a bunch of governmental bodies, 'We're working on it, we're working on it,' " Thad Kirk of the 5600 block of West Avenue said. "You didn't wait to clean up the streets."

Kirk delivered to City Council copies of what he said were 200 letters from south end constituents to legislators.

The public comment elicited a vow from Mayor Jay Gillian.

"I can promise you, and I don't do it often ... we're going to do whatever we can," Gillian said. "I'm going to do everything I can without going to jail."

But what exactly the city can do remained mostly unclear.

Business Administrator Mike Dattilo reported that the letter-writing campaign of Ocean City residents appears to have been noticed by legislators.

"We have very encouraging signs," he said.

The city administration remains convinced that the best scenario would be for funding of an already approved Army Corps of Engineers project for the south end. The approval would bring beach replenishment back every three years with the city paying just 8.75 percent of the overall project cost.

But Dattilo said the extension of a beach-widening project on the north end of the island — scheduled to start today (Friday, Feb. 15) — appears unlikely, particularly because nesting season for the endangered piping plover starts on March 15 and stretches into August.

He said state and federal officials have been noncommital on how disaster relief funds will be spent. But with more than $50 billion earmarked for Sandy relief, there appears to be some chance to protect south-end properties with a beach replenishment project.

In the meantime, City Council approved a bond ordinance that includes $2.7 million to replace dunes, fencing and plantings across the length of Ocean City's beachfront. The plan includes funding to truck in sand to bolster dunes at the south end.

Southend Citizen February 17, 2013 at 05:43 AM
ALL does NOT include the beaches south of 36th street, we are not part of the federal project area. The City Hall PR machine is crowing over extending the project from 14th Street to 36th. The City knows the South End needs to be a State and City funded project and is hoping to get Sandy related federal dollars so they don't have to absorb the increased cost. The Mayor and Council don't really think of the South End as part of Ocean City: they're just happy to take our tax dollars and beach tag fees and provide no services. WE need to get on the News: boycott, protest, make noise!
DSA February 17, 2013 at 12:32 PM
Somebody should call the station and tell them. Bad press may be a help.
disgusted by this town February 17, 2013 at 05:51 PM
The south end has been ignored forever. Fewer locals and fewer of the insiders club that runs the town and prospers from each other. Maybe we should not buy beach tags since we have no beach. Maybe we should withhold our taxes since I think we provide some 38percent of the base. The beach isn't gone because of Sandy but the Ocean and bay met during Sandy because there was no beach to begin with and tiny dunes. Come on Mayor it is way past time to take care of all the people in Oicean City not just the old club of the chosen ones.
Donna February 23, 2013 at 04:06 PM
All the talk seems to be about northend to 14th street and the southened talk is 50th to 59th. Well, what about all those streets in betweeen. Maybe they aren't in real bad shape but they need attention, too. Our 49th street beach isn't looking so good. We're ALL taxpayers and deserve equal attention. I'm appalled the southend wasn't included in the 'contract' to dredge the northened. That was in the works before Sandy hit. I just hope our island beaches are ready for the Spring/Summer. OC was spared the worst of the worst by Sandy, thank God. Not like other shore points who got hit so badly. So, let's take advantage of it by getting all our beaches ready. After all, that's the real reason families come to OC - to enjoy the beach and ocean. Maybe some of those families who frequent other shore points, visit here and realize OC is for them and then make OC their vacation spot.
Southend Citizen February 23, 2013 at 04:43 PM
You're right Donna. I think 50th street as a demarcation point for discussion is a result of where there was complete dune failure. The project is likely extending to the end of the Federally approred area (36th Street). From there down you see a gradual narrowing. The most severe is the mid fifties on down. Frankly, around 51st St.the beach width looks like it does most winters, but from a pesrpective that used to be in the middle of a dune, so we definitely lost beach. And beach goers will have to migrate North, so the squeeze will be on. The beaches tend to build up a bit on their own as we get to late Spring. And if you think about it, the streets between 17th (give or take) down to 38th or somay not need the widening. But the dunes need work anyway. And, as you mention, we all pay taxes to Washington, Trenton, and City Hall so there should be a fair process for restoration in place.

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