By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Sept. 6, 2018) Ocean Pines General Manager John Bailey said on Saturday two bid requests would be released this week related to the sanctuary crab pier: one to remove the existing floating pier and a second to replace it.
Bailey said alternate sites are also being explored, with his office recommending the White Horse Park boat launch as the favorite.
Another option apparently under consideration was the swim and racquet club park area, currently home to a controversial bulkhead staging ground.
Director Frank Daly during a Saturday work session said people in the Whitetail Sanctuary neighborhood “have feelings both ways” on whether the pier should be replaced or removed.
He pointed to a lack of parking and sanitation service at the current site as negatives, adding any course of action would likely require lengthy approvals from federal, state and local environmental agencies.
Homeowner Michael Galello, who recently helped organize a residents meeting on the subject and has spoken several times during public board meetings, again weighed in.
Galello said it was irresponsible for the board in 2001 to accept turnover of the pier, which was originally intended only as a neighborhood amenity.
“When it was accepted from the developer … it was a hot potato — he wanted to get rid of it,” he said, adding at the time the usage was also changed.
“It was described as a neighborhood recreational facility,” Galello continued. “When OPA took it over, it became public, meaning California can use it.”
He went on to say there is no public parking for the pier, and it was close to a “90-degree bend” in the road that created “a dangerous environment for children.”
“I have personally witnessed a car hitting a child on a bike, throwing him to the ground,” Galello said. “There’s things that we see. We live with it every day.”
During another instance, he said residents watched as a child fell into the water while the mother wasn’t paying attention.
“The pier was accepted in good will, but it was wrongly accepted,” he said. “It’s not the right place. It’s one-sixteeth of a mile off the road to the waterline so, if somebody did need to be rescued, it ain’t gonna happen.
“It’s in a remote area. It’s not lit. There’s no parking. There’s a string of legalities that we can challenge as well,” he added.
Galello said residents were asking for the area to be converted to a nature preserve, accessible to walking and biking traffic only.
“The reason we’re asking for a nature preserve is that there is nowhere in Ocean Pines that you can enjoy an Assateague-like amenity,” he said. “As a resident, I don’t see losing an amenity. I see transforming an existing amenity into a safer environment for children and for adults to enjoy. And I’m hoping that this is the outcome.”
One resident said converting the swim and racquet club park to a crabbing pier would require nothing more than a sign.
Another complained there wasn’t much for children to do in the south gate area and criticized the board for discussing the pier all summer without taking action.
“This was an amenity at the south gate – it’s not an amenity for just the sanctuary. There’s maybe 20 families in the sanctuary who are against it,” she said. “You already took away one year — how long does this take?”
The floating portion of the pier has been shuttered for several months because of safety concerns based on an independent study.
Facilities Manager Kevin Layfield said the structure is beyond repair, with connecting bolts and nails either rusted or missing.
“It’s beyond maintenance at this point and it’s either a removal or replacement situation,” he said.
He said a new structure being looked at would be made of aluminum and much easier to maintain and repair.