Several times a year we hold beach clean-ups and have an active Adopt-a Beach program. In 2007 alone we had over 1100 volunteers who submitted 4400 hours of service to environmental clean ups.
Ocean City is known as America’s Greatest Family Resort and it lives up to this tag line. It is a beautiful barrier island with seven miles of beaches and state-owned park land on each end of the island. For generations, families have come to Ocean City to enjoy the many distinctive qualities of this ocean resort.
One of the first steps we took was to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Under the Agreement our City Administration is committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2012-a target set in 2005 by the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement that aims to combat global warming. This sent a message to our staff and the community that we were committed to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and that we planned to make our environment a priority. This energized both the city staff and our many volunteers in the community to make the environment a priority, what has happened in the past year by their efforts is nothing short of amazing.
Building on the strong tradition of volunteerism in Ocean City, we created the first Environmental Commission in Ocean City’s history. The Commission has achieved its first goal by increasing the city’s recycling rate each month since they were sworn in on Earth Day 2007. This has been accomplished by educating the public through information tables on our famous boardwalk, meeting with school officials to gain buy in and encouraging business owners to participate in this very important program.
Recycling In just six months, our focus on recycling resulted in a savings to the taxpayers of over $67,000. Our outreach activities are expanding and we continue to look for additional recycling options to further decrease the amount of materials being disposed of in the county landfill. The city offers free weekly curbside collection of recyclables to all of our residences and businesses. This service is doubled to twice weekly collection in the busy summer months. Over 120 blue recycling containers were purchased in 2007 for the boardwalk and downtown area.
Old telephones, computers, metal, batteries, wood and yard waste is collected for recycling at the City’s Recycling Center through the generosity of the Ocean City Library Board of Trustees. Soon carpet and rigid plastic will be added.
Our Earth Day Celebration is now an annual event that is designed to educate the public about environmental initiatives and to show our residents and visitors the eco-tourism opportunities that Ocean City has to offer.
Plantings and Cleanups A Beautification Committee was established to make the city green and to enhance public areas. Flowers have been planted throughout the community to add to the natural beauty of our barrier island environment. New tree planting has been completed in various parking lots, major street corridors and parks. A new Adopt a Park Program is now in place that provides an opportunity to buy a tree to create a memory at various city parks. As of November 2007 Ocean City is now designated a Tree City USA.
As a resort destination, it is critical to keep our beaches and ocean clean. We accomplish this by placing recycling and trash cans at every access point to the beach. Our storm drains are stenciled to remind residents to keep pollutants out of the storm water drains. Several times a year we hold beach clean-ups and have an active Adopt-a Beach program. In 2007 alone we had over 1100 volunteers who submitted 4400 hours of service to environmental clean ups.
Clean Vehicles All of our diesel
vehicles have been converted to biodiesel fuel and we have started to buy hybrid cars. We have also created a plan to use recyclable products in reconstruction of parks and playgrounds and we are making sure each of these areas is part of an integrated pest management plan.
Bike Trails The creation of new bike accesses has also been a priority. The Mayor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports has taken on this challenge and are working on various projects to link areas of our barrier island for bike access. We are in the process of becoming a Bicycle Friendly Community. In 2008, a three mile street will be converted to a bike route with 15 mile per hour speed limits and four way stop streets to deter through traffic. A wonderful ten foot wide bike lane will span the four mile causeway that connects our island to the mainland in 2009, linking Ocean City to over 30 miles of interconnected bikeways. Bike racks are being placed throughout the city and traffic calming methods are being put in place.
A nature trail is being planned for the south end of the island to allow residents and visitors an opportunity to view the wetlands which make our environment so unique.
Our environmental center, the Bayside Center, built in the 1920’s by the descendents of Rudolph Diesel, the inventor of the diesel engine, is being enhanced to provide new programs and displays. A partnership with the Wetlands Institute of Stone Harbor and the willing involvement of yet another group of volunteers will result in the expanded use of this historic building to provide new environmental programming in 2008.
Green Buildings Another area that needed to be addressed was the “greening” of city buildings. I again challenged my staff to cut their electrical consumption by 10 percent by recycling and conservation. We have since begun to retrofit several of our buildings with compact florescent light bulbs, LED signage, thermostat controls, winter weatherization, faucet aerators, motion detector lighting, Energy Star appliances, and are making an effort to become a paperless office. An energy audit is being conducted on all of our major buildings to further reduce energy needs and to help to measure our carbon footprint. I also signed on to the New Jersey CleanPower Partnership Campaign. The architectural design of our first green building is underway—the 15,000 square foot addition to our Community & Cultural Arts Center.
Solar Power So far, the biggest achievement has been the initiative for the installation of solar panels on four city buildings that will provide 523 Kw of power. We received a $1.6M rebate for the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to leverage this project. This rebate coupled with federal tax credits and the sale of solar renewable energy credits will cover the entire cost of this effort. This project will create a savings to the taxpayers, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and eliminate over 820,000 lbs of CO2 from being released by using alternative energy.
Wind Power We will not stop at just considering solar as an alternative energy source. The Cape May County Municipal Utilities and the City are working on the possibility of wind power on the south end of the island. A feasibility study is underway. Ocean City continues to look into the future for new ideas such as the Clean Power Choice program and hydro power that helps protect the fragile environment while controlling cost to the taxpayer.
Knowing that education and convenience are the keys to public cooperation, the Ocean City website www.ocnj.us provides information about all of our environmental programs. By keeping our citizens and visitors informed, we hope to set an example for others to follow and to continue to build on our commitment to be a green community.
People want to live in and visit a community that cares for its environment. Ocean City will be one of the leading environmentally responsible communities in the state.