OCEAN CITY -- Jane Bowen says she has a good guess when the sand pumping on the beaches here will stop.
"Oh, I'm not saying," said Ms. Bowen, a Catonsville resident who plans to enter a statewide contest to guess the exact time when the pumping will cease. "But [with the previous delays], I don't think it's going to be Friday."
Sand pumping from sea to shore in the $12.5 million beach replenishment project is slated to be wrapped up Friday.
The project -- designed to restore beaches ravaged by a January northeaster -- was initially expected to be completed by mid-July, but bad weather and other problems caused delays, state officials have said.
When sand is pumped from the ocean floor to shore, beaches areas are roped off, forcing bathers to walk a block or two out of their way to reach the surf. During pumping, crews work day and night on the beach with heavy equipment to move and level sand, creating noise.
Hoping to put a positive spin on a project that has generated some negative headlines, Ocean City businesses have donated a wealth of prizes for the three people who come closest to guessing when the sand pumping is finished. The contest closes at the end of business Friday.
"We hope it will generate some curiosity," said Buddy Jenkins Jr., vice president of Bayshore Development, which owns the Jolly Roger Amusement Park.
First prize -- to the person who guesses nearest to the actual finish time -- includes a week's stay at the Holiday Inn Oceanfront, dinner at the Sheraton Hotel's Horizons Restaurant, lunch at Fager's Island, Sunday brunch at the Carousel Hotel, bus passes and passes to Trimper's Rides, Jolly Roger and Paradise Cove miniature golf course.
Second- and third-place prizes also will be awarded. Second prize includes a week-long off-season stay in a three-bedroom condominium at the Sandpiper Dunes, compliments of O'Conor Piper and Flynn. Third prize includes a Murder Mystery Weekend in October at the Castle in the Sand hotel.
trying to turn a negative into a positive," Mr. Jenkins said. "There are long-term benefits to the beach replenishment project -- for everyone. We'll have a beach next year."
The idea for the contest germinated at a recent meeting between the business community and Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who, along with his staff, came to town looking for ways to boost tourism.
"We are doing this as a thank you to the many thousands of beach-goers who visited Ocean City this summer while the beach replenishment project was under way," the governor said.
The delayed project has caused some beach-goers to grumble.
"There have been some complaints, but they've been minimal," said Nancy Howard, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Natural Resources. "Most people have been gracious. Most people understand why we're doing this."
Ms. Bowen, a Baltimore County schools secretary who works as a receptionist at the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce in the summer, said the chamber, too, has received complaints.
"People will call and ask where they're working now," Ms. Bowen said. "They're not coming down if they're at [such and such]."
Herb Parker, a vacationer from Fairfax, Va., said the sand pumping has been an inconvenience but "something you have to live with if you want to have a beach."
Mr. Parker, who rented a condo near 70th Street, said crews with backhoes and bulldozers have been moving sand nearby the past few days.
"It's been tolerable," he said.
Mr. Parker, who owns an ice cream franchise, said the contest was a good idea but he didn't know if he would enter.
Crews are pumping sand at 70th and 74th streets. When work between those streets is completed, pumping will begin at 120th Street, then move north to the Delaware line, Ms. Howard said.
"That work should go fairly quickly," she said. "That area wasn't as badly hit. The storm took the dunes down but didn't take the [beach] away."
HERE'S HOW TO ENTER BEACH CONTEST
Entries must be in writing and spell out the estimated date, hour and minute (a.m. or p.m.) the sand pumping will end. The contest closes Friday. Mail entries to Beach Replenishment, P.O. Box 2029 NOC, Ocean City 21842.