Mayor says city will consider other options for boardwalk decking

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OCEAN CITY — Unhappy with the quality of recently installed boardwalk decking, Mayor Jay Gillian said on Monday that the administration is looking into alternatives.

The southern pine utilized at the end of Moorlyn Terrace last year is already deteriorating.

“We need to address the wood on the boardwalk,” Gillian said. The city is set to begin a multi-year project to replace the decking and substructure from Fifth to 12th streets beginning this fall.

“I’m going to discuss this with my senior staff this week and we’re going to consider other options,” Gillian said. “The southern pine we have been using will not work.”

Options include a strong, fiberglass-infused wooden product that Gillian said would work very well for boardwalk decking. Subjected to a harsh, salt-air environment and a lot of foot traffic, he said the boardwalk needs to be covered with something that will hold up to the challenge while providing safe passage for both bicycles and pedestrians.

The city replaced a section of the boardwalk between 12th and 14th streets several years ago, he noted. When that section of the boardwalk, including the decking and the substructure, was replaced, pressure treated wood was utilized.

“That section is holding up much better than the boards that we just put down,” he said.

Since the section between 12th and 14th streets was put in place, regulations prohibiting the use of pressure treated wood have gone into effect and the quality of the wood, Gillian said, is disappointing. 

“We’re having problems with the new wood everywhere we’ve used it. It’s just regular pine and it’s not heavy duty,” he said. “The pressure treated southern pine was much better, much stronger. This new wood is not the same thing.”

The wood is chipping and splitting, and bowing, which creates safety hazards.

“We can’t use it anymore, we would be throwing money away,” he said.

The city has long utilized southern pine on the boardwalk. From 20th to 23rd streets and First to Second streets, the city utilized Ipe, a tropical hardwood. The southern-most section was put in place over 20 years ago and has required little if any maintenance.

Some boardwalk merchants have suggested using Ipe for every boardwalk replacement project, but local environmentalists are against the use of such products.

“We’re going to take a look at everything,” Gillian said, adding that he is hopeful the fiberglass-infused wood product will be a good alternative.

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