By Donald Wittkowski
The Boardwalk is the center of their universe when Meghan and Adam Hubley bring their children, Ava, 8, Sadie, 6, and Adelina, 3, on trips to Ocean City from their home in Mullica Hill, N.J.
“We like to go on the rides, go in the shops, stop at the pizza place and eat some ice cream,” Meghan Hubley explained of the family-friendly allure of the oceanfront promenade.
Down for the Easter weekend, the Hubleys were savoring their getaway at the shore Thursday afternoon with a stroll on the Boardwalk at 12th Street. When asked whether her family would visit Ocean City if the Boardwalk did not exist, Meghan paused for a moment and answered, “Probably not.”
Recognizing the Boardwalk’s importance to the summer tourist trade, the city spent about $10 million for a multiyear reconstruction that included a new wood deck, substructure, ramps, pavilions and railings from Fifth to 12th streets. The facelift was done in increments during the off-season each year and was completed in 2018.
“The Boardwalk is a centerpiece of every Ocean City vacation and an important part of what sets the city aside from other beach towns,” city spokesman Doug Bergen said. “The recent reconstruction project and ongoing maintenance are vital to the seasonal economy that is the lifeblood of the town.”
Now, as the 2019 summer season approaches, the city is busy with spring maintenance projects to make sure the Boardwalk is in tip-top shape.
“Spring preparations include inspection and replacement of any damaged decking, repainting of designated lanes for bicycles, surreys and runners, placement of trash and recycling receptacles, and kiosks for beach tag sales,” Bergen said.
In addition, a new ramp is being built to the Boardwalk at 13th Street that will be wider than its predecessor and safer for pedestrians, bikers, surrey carts and people with special accessibility needs. Bergen noted that 13th Street was the only downtown block with a single, narrow ramp connecting to the Boardwalk.
Soaking up the sun on Thursday afternoon, Patrick and Missy Miller and their teenage daughters, Lauren and Anna, were sitting on a bench on the Boardwalk near 13th Street, admiring the views of the ocean.
The Millers, of Newtown, Pa., rent a vacation home at 13th Street and Central Avenue, choosing the same location each year so that they can be close to the Boardwalk.
“It’s everything,” Patrick Miller said of the Boardwalk’s importance to his family. “When we’re down here, we probably spend the lion’s share of our time on the Boardwalk.”
Similar to Bergen’s comments, the Millers said the Boardwalk is what distinguishes Ocean City from other shore towns. Quite simply, the Boardwalk is the main reason they visit Ocean City, they said.
“It’s such a family atmosphere,” Patrick Miller said. “The Boardwalk is so special – especially how long it is, how clean and how safe.”
The Millers, who spent the day in Ocean City on Thursday, were planning to head home to Newtown to pick up one of their cousins and then return to the shore on Friday.
“We’ve been coming here since they were infants. That’s how much we love it,” Missy Miller said how her daughters, Lauren, 17, and Anna, 15, have practically grown up in Ocean City.
Although pre-Easter crowds created a bustling scene on the Boardwalk on Thursday, the beaches also attracted a fair number of visitors. Beach tags don’t go into effect until June 1, giving an extra incentive to relax on the sand.
Liz Garlick, of Bensalem, Pa., said her family couldn’t resist a day at the beach to start the Easter weekend. They made a last-minute decision to make the drive from Pennsylvania when the dreary and cloudy weather Thursday morning turned sunny later on.
Garlick was joined by her husband, Andy, her daughter, Isabella, 5, her 1-year-old son, AJ, her friend, Laurie Tarsitano and Tarsitano’s daughter, Brittany Kelley.
“We were excited to get in the car and come down here for the beach and Boardwalk,” Liz Garlick said, smiling.