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State Pushes Plan to Connect 59th Street to Corson's Inlet Rail Trail

A 300-foot boardwalk would give pedestrians and bicyclists access from Ocean City.

The state is moving forward with a plan that would allow bicyclists and pedestrians to travel from the end of West Avenue at 59th Street onto a 300-foot raised boardwalk over the marshes. The boardwalk would connect with an existing rail trail that leads to the parking lot at Corson's Inlet State Park.

The proposed new boardwalk would be located on state park land that extends to 59th Street, but Ocean City apparently has rights to "paper streets" that were never constructed — an extension of West Avenue into the park and an extension of 59th Street toward the mainland.

Representatives of the state Division of Parks and Forestry visited City Council on Thursday night to ask the city "in essence to partner with us" — because the proposed boardwalk would cross Ocean City's "paper streets."

The existing rail trail starts at the Corson's Inlet State Park parking lot on the causeway to Strathmere and travels about one-third of a mile to a dead end less than 100 yards from Ocean City streets.

"We'd like to connect our park to the local community," said John Trontis, assistant director of the state Division of Parks and Forestry. "That's our goal statewide."

Trontis showed plans for a disabled-accessible boardwalk that would enter the marshes at 59th Street in a line with the east sidewalk of West Avenue. The boardwalk would turn toward the west to meet the rail trail. Two ramps would bring bicycles and pedestrians up to the level of the raised rail bed.

Instead of traditional pilings, the boardwalk would be supported by helical piers — screw-like piles that would anchor stringers and decking. Water and wildlife would be able to travel under the boardwalk, according to Trontis.

He said the proposed project is about to enter the "land management review" phase of permitting and would continue with all required Department of Environmental Protection reviews.

"I can't guarantee there will be no wetland or permit problems," Trontis said of a process that is still in the early stages.

But a recent review showed that no endangered animals or plants would be affected by the project, Southern Regional Superintendent Thomas Keck told City Council.

The state Department of Environmental Protection, in a December 2011 news release, announced $5,850 in federal funding for a "59th Street Ocean City Boardwalk." The state would match a portion of that funding.

Trontis said the grant money would be used to buy material and the project could be completed — as have all Parks and Forestry projects since October 2010 — with in-house labor.

In public comment before Trontis' presentation, current Advisory Council on Physical Fitness and Sports member Kevin Redmond and former member Tom Heist spoke in favor of the project.

They described it as an an enhancement to safety and quality of life and a natural extension to a island-wide safe bicycle corridor under development.

Ocean City resident Irene Lorenzon said it was "an unnecessary intrusion" on wetlands and wildlife. She said 135 property owners have signed a letter of objection.

In questioning Trontis after his presentation, Councilman Tony Wilson clarified that a disabled-accessible trail is "something that's generally not available" at most parks.

Councilman Mike DeVlieger confirmed that the city would incur no costs from the proposed project.

Reacting to suggestions that the trail could create a parking problem, Councilman Keith Hartzell said neighbors told him parking would not be an issue — because there is none to be found anyway during the summer.

Hartzell said the neighbors who showed up earlier Thursday for a tour of the project area seemed satisfied with the proposed project.

Council President Michael Allegretto closed the discussion by saying that council would reach out to citizens for questions and feedback before making any decision.

Greg October 14, 2012 at 02:26 PM
good suggestion, Vic. That would be a great thing because maybe with some outside influence, Ocean City would not just run for the insiders, the old families who use it as their own personal piggy bank
Eric Sauder October 14, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Cindy Nevitt investigated the coastal cottage concept. Check out her piece "If they build it …" in shorenewstoday (Ocean City).
FactCheck October 15, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Corson's is a relatively small park with abundand trails right now - marked and unmarked. The proposed trail is on the books simply because of a state-wide parks division program to add trails. There is absolutely no need for this trail. It is all that is left for the corson's administrators to contribute to the bueuracatic mandate because the park is maxed out with trails. It runs through wetlands and state listed threathened and endangered species habitat and because the Park's division is part of the DEP, the reviews are complete white-washes. This is the kind of institutional corruption that runs rampant everywhere, regardless of who is in power. What makes this particular proposal especially offensive is that the State is willing to go beoyond the ususal intra-agency collusion and threaten to take OC streets by emininant domain and then vacate the streets - our streets! And, again, just to accomplish some bureucratic mission. I know this presents a dilemna to the usual low-info commenters here - environmentalists oppose it so the low info gang is for it, but the State is imposing its will on our town and those same low info folks are inclined to oppose that. What to do? How bout trying something new: get the relevant info and make an independant, dispassionate decision.
More Actual Facts October 15, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Also worth mentioning - During public comment, someone spoke in favor of the Corson';s trail making the case based on a fatality on Ocean Drive in 1999. That was of course tragic. But using that tragedy to make a political point is disrespectful and cheap. And worse, the person did not mention that subsequent to that accident, the state spent a ton of taxpayer money widening the shoulders of that road for the expressed purpose of making it safer for bikers and pedestrians. (and, of course, most ocean drive bicyclists are through-bikers (going from town to town) who would not get off the road to find and then ride the remote, sandy corson's trail). The same person stated that the RBA report on the thrice failed 25th to 49ths street boondagle stated that that trail could be done. The report did say that, but it went on to say that for it to get done would require multiple state and federal permits. It went on to mention requirements to get those permits and it was clear that they could not be gotten. So, saying the report concluded that the project could be done is equivalent to saying that I could fly to the moon - if I could buy a space ship and fly it.
OCPatch Test October 19, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Comment test.

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