OCEAN CITY, Md. — Officials in Maryland and Delaware beach towns are hoping renovations, good publicity and activities pegged to historical events will help usher in a strong summer beach season, and they say the states are on track to receive more visitors this year.
While the Mid-Atlantic beaches were not as badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy last year as those from New Jersey northward, it’s unclear whether people are showing more interest in visiting down south due to storm damage at their regular vacation spots. Maryland officials say the state has increased advertising in those areas in recent years.
“We definitely have talked to a lot of people from New Jersey and that northern (Pennsylvania) area who are coming to the area for the first time,” said Susan Jones, executive director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association.
In Delaware, Rehoboth officials are celebrating the town’s new status as one of the top 10 beach towns for families in the United States, as listed in Parents magazine.
“We’re up there with some big towns,” Rehoboth town manager Greg Ferrese said. “We’re excited about that.”
Officials say Delaware’s beaches could see a lot of visitors this summer from New Jersey, where some coastal towns felt the full wrath of Sandy and aren’t ready for visitors. Ferrese suggested that in southern New Jersey towns such as Cape May, Stone Harbor and Avalon, the supply of rental properties won’t be able to meet the demand.
“We’re anticipating a rush towards the middle of the season, not so much now,” said Bill Lingo, a Rehoboth real estate broker.
“We’re a little bit up over last year so we’re anticipating a good season,” Lingo added.
Carol Everhart, president of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce in Delaware, said requests for area information in the first quarter of this year were up more than 20 percent compared with the same time last year.
Ocean City Mayor Richard Meehan said he is confident the barrier-island town is as ready as ever for visitors — perhaps more so. The decking on the 2.5-mile boardwalk has been replaced after a two-year project unrelated to the storm. The convention center has been expanded by about 30,000 square feet. The beach is in good condition. The mayor says hotel bookings are on track to increase from last year.
“We’re ready to go,” Meehan said in an interview this month. “You would never know that there was really any major storm.”
The rebuilding of the end of a well-known fishing pier in Ocean City was one of the last tasks that remained to bring the city back to where it was before Sandy swept by.
The mayor said a company is aiming to have it completed around Memorial Day.
“That looks like it’s going to be remedied prior to the season,” he said this month.
“It’s all going to be repaired. We’ve lost portions of it before during those storms, and everything should be fine.”
In the Chesapeake Bay town of Crisfield, which was hard hit by Sandy, residents have worked to keep events on schedule this summer season. They’ve moved some events a short distance from the town pier, which was badly damaged.
“They’ve pulled together in a remarkable way,” said Julie Widdowson, director of tourism for Somerset County. “We see businesses opening their doors and getting ready.”
Connie Yingling, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Office of Tourism, said much of the Eastern Shore is showing strong potential for a positive summer season. Events will commemorate the War of 1812 throughout the summer along the Chesapeake Bay, and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels opened a new exhibit this month called “Navigating Freedom: The War of 1812 on the Chesapeake.”
“This is a bay-wide series of exhibits and special occasions,” Yingling said. She also noted plans for a Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway and State Park.
Another new offering for visitors to Mid-Atlantic beaches will be additional early-morning ferry departures between Lewes, Del., and Cape May, N.J.
In Rehoboth, visitors will find a new wrinkle in the form of a $40 permit for scooters to park on city streets in non-metered areas. Scooters will be able to park in designated “scooter-only” locations and on permit parking areas on residential streets but will not be allowed to park on the boardwalk or sidewalks. Parking fines will be the same as for cars.
Farther south, Dewey Beach also has something new for visitors — a smoking ban on the beach. With a recent vote by Town Council, Dewey became the third Delaware beach town to outlaw smoking on the sand, joining Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island. Disobeying the ban, which also covers town parks, is a civil violation. Fines will be doubled for anyone throwing cigarette butts onto the dunes.
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