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 the 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, beach 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 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 guess the closest to when the sand pumping concludes.
"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 Sheraton'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.
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.
The delayed project has caused some beach-goers to grumble, said Nancy Howard, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Natural Resources. "Most people understand why we're doing this."
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.
Contest entries must spell out the estimated date, hour and minute (a.m. or p.m.) the sand pumping will cease. The contest ends Friday. Write: Beach Replenishment, P.O. Box 2029 NOC, Ocean City 21842.