MAINTAINING THE BEACH
By Bruce Gibbs, Retired Superintendent of Maintenance
The beach is one of the most popular vacation destinations, and Ocean City has one of the finest. Whether it’s beachcombing, building sandcastles, frolicking in the surf, taking a moonlight stroll or soaking up the sun, our beautiful white beach provides residents and visitors with many pleasures. Mother Nature has given us this wonder and it is our responsibility to preserve, replenish and maintain it.
With the federal, state and local governments all working together, the dunes have been rebuilt and sand has been pumped in to widen the beach from the Maryland-Delaware line south to 12th Street.
The beach requires year-round maintenance, specialized equipment and dedicated employees. In the winter months, the main task is to keep the sand pulled away from the sea wall so when high tides and winter storms come the sand isn’t washed up and over the wall onto the Boardwalk and streets.
Spring season brings on new activity. The winter’s debris must be cleaned up so that the beach can be leveled. This is important because sanitizers need a smooth surface to operate. Over the winter months, Mother Nature has packed the sand hard and it must now be loosened. To accomplish this, the sand is raked and dragged. Ocean City uses Case tractors for beach work. For raking, a 14-foot rake is attached to the tractor; for dragging a very large oak beam is used to level the sand.
The beach is now prepared for the finishing touches. To achieve the smooth finish that you see in the summer, a special piece of equipment called a sanitizer is used. This is pulled behind the tractor and acts like a sifter. As it is pulled along the beach, it sifts down about 2-4 inches and separates the trash, which is then emptied into the back of the sanitizer. Four sanitizers are at work every night giving the beach that polished finish.
In the summer a surf rake is used to rake and dress the wet sand by the surf because the sanitizer can not be used there.
Now that the beach is dressed and fine-cleaned, 700 trash cans are positioned along the beach. These are emptied daily by two specialized Broyhill dumpers. When the season is over, the barrels and trash cans are removed and sand fence is installed. The fencing is placed at the heads of streets from 27th Street south to prevent the sand from blowing onto the streets and Boardwalk.