(May 24, 2019) A small part of the upcoming Jellyfish Festival dedicated to riding bicycles on the beach could lead to wider allowance of the activity later this fall and next summer.

Tres Denk of the Eastern Shore International Mountain Biking Association met with the Ocean City Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Committee on May 8 to inquire about offering guided bicycle tours on the beach.

For many years, Denk has organized local cycling events and he recently started a new company, “Beach to Bay Bicycling,” which hopes to offer tours throughout the county, from riverfront areas of Pocomoke and Snow Hill, to the beaches of Ocean City.

He explained how so-called “fat tire” bicycles, like four-wheel drive vehicles, can lower their tire pressure to allow for better traction in sand.

Fat tire

Corbin Denk rides a fat tire bicycle at Bainbridge Park in Ocean Pines. Organizer Tres Denk of the Easter Shore International Mountain Biking Association hopes to bring fat tire bikes to the Ocean City beaches, for guided tours. He plans to first offer demonstrations during the upcoming Jellyfish Festival.

Along with tours, Beach to Bay Bicycling offers training and safety lessons for beginning riders, and also has led programs for veterans and children in areas like Berlin.

Denk said he approached City Hall to ask about guided bicycle tours along the shoreline, but was told, “It wasn’t going to happen here.” He said he has allowances through the county and in Salisbury, but not yet in Chincoteague, Assateague nor Ocean City.

Public Works Director Hal Adkins said one of the difficulties was the complex and franchised nature of many businesses that run on or near the beach.

“What people need to realize [is] – no matter whether we’re talking about this or bottles of Coke of hotdogs or ice cream in a cooler with big rubber tires – the beach is looked at as an asset. Not everyone has the right to earn an income on it,” Adkins said. “The telescope pictures [for example] … it’s a competitively bid franchise agreement resulting in massive amounts of money, no different than the beach stand operators renting chairs and umbrellas.

“Unfortunately, there’s a process – and it’s a long process,” he continued. “But I’m an optimistic guy that, whatever the topic is, if it’s logical and it makes sense, it’s achievable.”

Committee members told Denk he did not need further permission to offer fat tire bike rides within the confines of the Jellyfish Festival, but probably would not be able to take riders onto the beach, just yet.

“Say you were to get approval … and ride along the beach. If that is unsuccessful, that’s going to be a one-time event,” committee President Paul Mauser, also the city’s engineering manager, said. “If we get a lot of calls here in City Hall [saying], ‘Hey, I don’t like this’ … that’s going to be it. It’s going to be one time and you’re done.

“What I propose is, [attend] Jellyfish, do a closed course, then come in … and do a one-time event in the October or November timeframe where you can do an open course, try it out, see what kind of feedback you get, and then maybe we establish winter hours or offseason times when we can bike on the beach,” he added.

Special Events Director Frank Miller agreed­.“It’s a very slow introduction to the residents and the public, but it allows the opportunity for people to gain interest in it,” he said.

Denk said he understood that logic.

“I came here today … to get the ball rolling,” he said. “I want to make sure that it’s a legacy that, when we do it, we do it properly and that it lives on beyond us.

“I’m very excited for the Jellyfish thing and I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t making more waves than we knew were coming,” Denk added.

Miller said he would “try to champion fall offseason riding hours” with City Manager Doug Miller, and perhaps help develop a new city ordinance related to riding on the beach.  

Josh Davis is an MDDC award-winning editor and reporter at the Bayside Gazette and Ocean City Today newspapers, covering Berlin and Ocean Pines, Maryland. He is the author of three novels, including 'Vanishing is the Last Art' (2012). He lives in Berlin.

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