By MADDY VITALE
Playland’s Castaway Cove in Ocean City has been rebuilding since the January 2021 fire that destroyed its arcade and front entrance.
The amusement park has been using an area on the south side of the park’s location at 10th Street and the Boardwalk for construction cranes to make steel and concrete deliveries.
But this week, ahead of the busy Memorial Day Weekend, city officials went ahead with reassembling a ramp in the area, essentially closing off access for heavy equipment to make deliveries to Playland’s.
Brian Hartley, vice president of the amusement park, said the result could mean taking down rides and possibly closing early this summer to complete the work on the property for the summer of 2023.
“The choices are either have the ramp taken down so we can continue to have access or closing four or five rides, the merry-go-round, Double Shot and Buccaneer, definitely,” Hartley said in an interview with OCNJDaily.com Tuesday. “We want access to the site for the heavy equipment or we could potentially have to close early this season and hope to get the work done for next summer.”
Ocean City Business Administrator George Savastano said in a statement that “the city is going to work with the property owner to address this matter, as we have always done with everyone.”
He said that the city has been “extremely accommodating, in recognition of the circumstances.”
“The fact that an important access point to the Boardwalk is being restored prior to the coming Memorial Day weekend should not be a surprise. Frankly, it should be expected, as it is appropriate that this be in place for a potentially extremely busy holiday weekend. The fact is that this access best serves the public’s safety and welfare.”
Savastano further said in the statement that the city is confident that the matter can be reasonably handled. He reiterated that the city’s professional staff is “certain that restoration of this access is appropriate and right in advance of the coming holiday.”
He continued, “In regard to Playland’s ongoing efforts to restore their damaged property, the administration will continue to work out logistics with the property owner in a logical and professional manner.”
Hartley said that he, along with Playland’s owner, Scott Simpson, attempted to discuss the matter with the city, seeking more time to get the deliveries.
“All of a sudden, there is a sense of urgency to put the ramp back together for Memorial Day Weekend,” he noted.
Hartley said he and Simpson are hopeful that there can be some resolution so that they can continue to work on rebuilding the popular amusement park.
“The ramp is just a ramp to go up on the Boardwalk. We proposed taking the ramp out and letting people walk up the staircase,” he said. “There is a ramp on the north side of 10th Street.”
He added that Playland had offered to pay for a sidewalk, curb cuts and curbing at the south side to allow people to walk there but also enable them to get their deliveries.
Hartley received a call from City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson on Tuesday to ask for a delivery schedule for construction materials to the Playland site. Hartley also noted that some City Councilmen reached out to him and listened to his concerns.
McCrosson said in a statement that she did ask that Hartley “provide a schedule for deliveries, as well as a construction plan for whatever they propose, and an explanation for the request to continue to utilize the city right-of-way, rather than utilizing the rear entrance to the Boardwalk for the delivery of steel and blockwork via crane prior the July 1st end of construction activities.”
But Hartley said a delivery schedule is difficult to provide, considering the COVID-19 pandemic causing delays in deliveries as well as supply-chain issues.
Currently, the entrance and exit widely used by Playland patrons is a pathway between Jilly’s T-Shirt Factory and Jilly’s Candy Factory.
“We were hoping to try to get some sort of temporary walkway for this summer, so it wasn’t so congested,” Hartley said. “We are landlocked.”
Playland continues to rebuild after an accidental fire broke out early in the morning on Jan. 30, 2021, destroying the arcade, the offices and the front entrance overlooking the Boardwalk, including its iconic pirate ship replica.