As addressed in Section 2.2, ‘Vacationers’ create the greatest amount of economic activity, and Crisfield should take steps to maximize the ability to attract this type of traffic.
There are numerous sources and possible actions that can be taken to generate traffic beyond Focus Area 1 now, and ones that should be planned for now even though it will be some years until they can be implemented.
Below is a list of just a few of the businesses/attractions that should facilitate traffic, and incidentally, I believe everything listed below aligns with fulfilling the Overall Objective.
➢ Hotel & Conference Center: I previously covered the reasons why further research is warranted for the proposed location, funding source and if Crisfield currently has the traffic-flow needed to financially sustain a H/CC.
However, an upscale hotel will be an essential part of revitalization when there is traffic to support it. There are numerous possibilities for a hotel, though there are multiple, and extremely important, steps that should be completed prior – primary of them being the act of producing an overall plan.
It will also be beneficial if the hotel serves as an attraction itself. A conference center will generate traffic when booked, and including one into a hotel design does deserve strong consideration. Another option, one that I feel could be quite successful, is incorporating an indoor water-park, possibly something similar to a ‘Great Wolf Lodge,’ so the hotel is a traffic facilitator year-round.
➢ RV Parks – I’m aware that recently (2019), a proposal for a RV Park on Jersey was rejected, and also that the area isn’t zoned for that use. I’m not fully knowledgeable of all the details, except what’s been shared by the media.
One of the opponents of the proposal stated that Jersey Island, being waterfront property, will be too valuable in the future to be used as a RV Park now. To this, and other similar types of situations, it’s crucial to consider the current circumstances. This property has sat vacant for over a decade, the investor who proposed the RV Park bought it at auction. It has a marina with two 8’ wide piers that combined are approximately 800’ in length – which have also been sitting unused for a decade.
While I hope I’m mistaken on this, it’s likely that these docks are not receiving an adequate level of preventative maintenance, and if it isn’t, in the not too far distant future they will begin to rapidly deteriorate, and this may possibly even be happening now. What will the value of the property be then?
Considering the history of the property, and no alternate proposals expected, an RV Park would be excellent for this location. It would generate traffic now, and not require massive structures so it could be easily redeveloped when it becomes feasible for investors to do so.
While I don’t have information pertaining to the revenue that’s been generated there, the RV Park at the American Legion Post 16, seems to be doing extremely well. Moreover, numerous cities all over Delmarva are benefiting economically from RV Parks. An internet search will quickly provide enough information to support this, therefore, efforts should be made to change any zoning regulations banning RV Parks. Of course these zoning changes should have stipulations, along with restrictions on the types, sizes, etc. on RVs, and the RV Parks located in areas like Jersey Island would be upscale RVs.
Opinions aside, there is an overwhelming amount of data readily available supporting that RV Parks provide significant economic activity. This type of traffic consists of high-income individuals, who patronize businesses of all types.
➢ Campgrounds (tents, camping trailers, etc.) – Even though this traffic is not as wealthy as RV traffic, it still provides significant economic activity. A fair portion of this traffic consists of the main targeted traffic groups – Y-16 and 30-45. There are many areas on the outskirts of Crisfield that are suitable for campsites.
➢ Notes on RVs & Campgrounds – This type of tourism is growing exponentially, and internet customer reviews give Janes Island very high ratings. The majority of negative responses are primarily focused on two things, which are things that would benefit privately owned/operated RV Parks and Campgrounds, and Crisfield as a whole.
The most common complaint about Janes Island is, as it is with all state parks in MD, is they do not allow alcoholic beverages or the use of golf-carts; two of the most favorite activities enjoyed by this type of traffic. I’ve been told personally by numerous people that even though they greatly enjoy Janes Island, they choose other locations that do not have the above restrictions. By establishing private RV parks and campgrounds that do allow these activities, Crisfield will attract many of these people.
➢ ATV Trail Parks – While more research on this is needed to determine its feasibility, ATV parks are extremely popular. With an abundance of unused forest area in lower Somerset County, this certainly warrants further attention.
➢ Plane Rides/Tours – When I worked for the City, the grass-cutting and maintenance duties at the Crisfield/Somerset Airport were performed by municipal workers. It should be of interest to the City to try and generate revenue from the airport to lessen the tax-burden – and ultimately even produce profit.
Again, more research on this is needed to determine its feasibility, but offering plane rides/tours may generate additional traffic. The revenue generated – if there aren’t any regulations prohibiting it – could also possibly be supplemented by having the planes tow banners with advertisements.
➢ Janes Island Beach – Just a short distance from Crisfield is a white sandy beach – that is several miles in length – and it’s practically unused. To utilize this beach would require implementing a ferryboat service, possibly a trail for an ATV type trolly-service to transport visitors along the beach, and a facility for restrooms and shelter for severe weather. A pump boat could be constructed to transport sewage off the island.
This initiative could be implemented in phases, starting on the southend with a small shelter and an enclosure for portable toilets, and steadily expend north as traffic increases.
I’ve interviewed locals who were born in the early to mid 1900’s, and they’ve stated that Janes Island was a very popular destination at that time with it being common for 200-300 people to be at the beach on any given weekend. The popularity continued into 1960’s but had diminished greatly by the end of the 20th century.
Without a doubt, Vacationers are strongly attracted to destinations with beaches. Even though it’s very ambitious, it may be wise to at least consider a long-term plan that includes constructing a bridge to Janes Island allowing automobiles access to the island. While this may be easy for some to dismiss as unrealistic, it’s been done in Chincoteague, the MD side of Assateague, along with countless other places; all of which have been extremely successful in generating traffic.
➢ Baltimore/Crisfield Passenger Cruise Line – An extremely popular service around the Bay during the late 19th and early 20th centuries were steamboat cruises, and Crisfield was a favorite stop. Steamboats would leave Baltimore in the afternoon, sail down the Bay reaching Crisfield during the night. Passengers would spend a day or two in Crisfield and sail back north to Baltimore.
Incidentally, there are accounts of some passengers who – when seeing Crisfield and its rowdy element – were actually afraid to venture out into Crisfield and stayed on the boat. Some of these fearful visitors wrote to the Baltimore Sun newspaper and this exposure, that was intended to be negative, actually resulted in tourists coming to Crisfield to see for themselves.
If/WHEN Crisfield becomes a significant tourist destination, this endeavor may actually be economically feasible and serve as a traffic facilitator for Crisfield and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Moreover, something that I believe would assist in making this service lucrative – if it could get legislative approval – is to have a casino on the cruise-ship. I haven’t done any research into the laws and restrictions, but there are casinos currently operating in Maryland, and Somerset County would certainly benefit the economic activity that a casino would generate.
Chesapeake Shipbuilding operates out of Salisbury, MD and have built numerous vessels that are modernized steamboat replicas, which would be perfect for the type of operations explained here.
I have many other ideas for additional traffic facilitators that I haven’t included in this report.