By Maddy Vitale
The 34th Street entryway in Ocean City will be spruced up with permanent decorative lighting under a new city initiative.
City Councilman Bob Barr said residents of the Fourth Ward ask him about the lighting more than anything else, and it began when he was campaigning for his first term in 2016.
“The number one question we get is if we could get permanent lights on the trees to the entryway,” Barr said in an interview Tuesday. “We are always looking for ways to make that area better.”
“Mayor Jay Gillian has been so supportive of this,” Barr added.
He also said the county, especially the Cape May County freeholders, have helped in the process.
On May 9, City Council awarded a $36,500 contract to Rileigh’s Outdoor Décor for custom lights to be supplied as needed throughout the 2019 calendar year, according to a city resolution.
“The mayor and City Council have made a priority of beautifying Ocean City’s gateways. With the help of county grants, the city was able to turn two abandoned gas stations at the foot of the Ninth Street Bridge into an open-space park,” said Ocean City Public Information Officer Doug Bergen.
Bergen continued, “The seasonal lights along Roosevelt Boulevard are a popular addition to the 34th Street gateway. This appropriation will make them permanent.”
Barr has said from the beginning, the 34th Street artery needs a facelift and should be something that visitors take notice of and residents can be proud of.
His goal, and the goal of other city officials, has been to make the second-busiest entryway, aside from the Ninth Street corridor, inviting to guests in “America’s Greatest Family Resort.”
The new lighting is a centerpiece of the beautification project. It will be installed within the next month or so, Barr said.
“I’m glad to get it done and make the causeway nicer and brighter and make people feel good about where they come from,” he added.
The LED lights will replace Christmas lights that are currently still up, but only lit through the holidays. The new lights will be illuminated year-round and will enhance the entryway, Barr pointed out.
But the lights are only the first step in a long list of proposed upgrades to dramatically improve the area that visitors see first when they make their way over the 34th Street bridge into the south end of the city.
“This is the first step,” Barr said.
He is also hopeful that new trees, possibly evergreens, will replace the twisted, gnarled and crooked trees that currently line the center island.
But, he said, the residents have mixed feelings about new trees in that area. Some people are concerned that the existing trees could be harmed if uprooted. Others like the unusual look that definitely catches the eye.
“The mayor and I met and discussed the trees, but people are mixed on the issue,” Barr said.
For now, Barr and others will soon see bright white lights illuminating the entryway into the resort, right at the start of the bustling summer season.
“I am really excited,” Barr said. “Anything we can do to make the south end feel as though we are equal to the rest of the city is our goal.”