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April 18, 1997     Cape Gazette
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April 18, 1997
 

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10 - CAPE GAZETYE, Friday, April 18- April 24, 1997 Cape State Park faces equal opportunities, obstacles By Michael Short Development of a master plan for Cape Henlopen State Park is a process that may face as many obstacles as opportunities. A large crowd showed up on Monday, April 14 for a public meeting to begin dis- cussion of a possible master plan. Repre- sentatives from Delaware's parks depart- ment talked about the process that will be followed as a plan is slowly developed. There were no decisions on Monday. But a few key points emerged from the discus- sion. A master plan is expected to evolve slowly over a period of months. A steering committee will be developed which will guide much of that work and make recommendations. And the meetings of the steering committee will be conducted in public with public input welcome and in- vited. Mark Chura, manager of planning for the Delaware parks division, took pains to em- phasize that the public can have a say in this process. "We have really made a point of making this an open process," he said. "It is a public process. What we do has to benefit the public at large." The key issue, according to Chura, will be balancing public use of the park with protection of its fragile and unique environ- ment. A group calling itself the Concerned Sus- sex County Citizens, about 15 of whom at- tended the meeting, submitted a sheet of opinions on the master plan process. 'q'he cre- ation of a master plan for Cape Henlopen State Park provides an opportunity to ensure the protection and en- hancement of i{s spe- cial qualities while CHURA providing for their continued enjoyment by the public," ac- cording to the sheet of opinions. "The carrying capacity of the park should be the overriding concern in development of the plan and in future management of the park. We refer here to the carrying capacity of the park's natural endowments, both bio- logical and physical." The reference to carrying capacity was echoed by a few other members of the audi- ence, who know that visitor numbers are up considerably. After averaging perhaps 850,000 visitors yearly, last year's visitor numbers were 1.2 million or more, Chura said. No one knows if those numbers will con- tinue, but for the fast time, the park had to close its doors last July 4 weekend when there was literally no room at the inn. "A lot of people really love this place," said "Chaz" Salkin, director of Delaware's Divi- sion of Parks and Recreation. Speakers gave a list of some opportuni- ties and challenges. Opportunities include new or possible new additions to the park land, including the newly acquired Fort Miles Recreation Area (a former overnight recreation area), the newly acquired Naval Reserve facility, which has since been named the Biden Environmental Center and the possible acquisition of the Breakwater Lighthouse in Delaware Bay next to Cape Henlopen Point. Those facilities offer unique opportuni- ties, including the addition of overnight lodging facilities Chura said. But there are also plenty of obstacles. They include old buildings like the former motor pool and "T" buildings, which are deteriorating and full of asbestos and lead paint, bad roads, a park entrance that may need re.configuring, a lack of handicapped accessibility at the campgrounds and the park's desire to get out of the sewer treat- ment business and have someone else take care of sewage treatment at the park. Bike paths, a controversial issue that helped jump start the master plan process last year, may be the most controversial is- sue to be tackled. Chura promised that be- fore decisions are made on that or any other park issues, "we will have the data to make informed decisions. The issue of how many people the park can hold. I think that is the one issue...We're going to do the job right [and] let the chips fall where they may," Chura said. The next meeting has been tentatively set for May 13. More details will be forthcom- ing once the date is confLrmed. Anyone who wishes to submit comments or submit names to serve on the steering committee are asked to do so by April 30 and send them To: Division of Parks, Box 1401, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE. 19903 and mark them to the attention of Michael Lane. Lewes. agrees to proclaim several natural area days in 1997 By Dennis Forney Dick Stafursky of Savannah Inn Bed and Breakfast in Lewes wants to ensure that a number of natural areas are preserved for the future. Members of Lewes Council, at their Monday, April 14 meeting, agreed to help. They voted unani- mously to proclaim seven special days in 1997 which Stafursky feels will be the first step toward official preservation actions. They stopped short of the rest of his request however which includ- ed authorizing placement of signs in those areas. The following special days will be proclaimed in accordance with the April 14 vote: Prickly Pear Park Preservation Day, May 1, 1997 in recognition of the undeveloped coastal dune area between Cape Henlopen Dri- ve and Lewes Beach between Sa- vannah Rd. and Pilot Point devel- opment. Fourth Street Pine Forest Bio- diversity Day, June 7, 1997, in recognition of the undeveloped pine and scrub woods on the south side of Fourth St. and Ocean View Boulevard. Ancient Broadkill River and Roosevelt Inlet Day, July 5, 1997. Great Marsh and Green Hill Light Island Restoration Day, Aug. 2, 1997. Creek-to-Bay Natural Wildlife Corridor Day, recognizing a nat- ural creek bed which Stafursky said exists in the area of the Lewes Wastewater Treatment Plant, Sept. 6, 1997. Greater Cape Henlopen Ecosystem Preservation Day, Sept. 7, 1997. Couhcil members also approved Stafursky's request that June, 1997 be proclaimed Lewes Natur- al Features Month. Stafursky, a stalwart environmentalist who consistently speaks out in favor of natural preservation, said his hope is that by designation of these days the effort would steamroll and more and more natural areas would be preserved. 'Whanks for doing this - before these places are gone - before they're even named," said Stafursky. Council- man Tony Pratt, who made the motion for approval of the desig- nations, suggested that Stafursky talk to the town committee re- viewing signs about his sugges- tion that signs be placed in the nat- ural areas. "I don't want to ap- prove something that would con- flict with their efforts," said Pratt. Dennis Fomey photo Dick Stalin-sky holds a suggested natural feature "nf' sign that he proposed be placed in a number of areas in Lewes. Ulrich urges, Lewes agrees to revisit historic district regs By Dennis Forney Lewes resident Chuck Ulrich, proprietor of the Bluewater House on Lewes Beach, thinks seven years is long enough for a pro- posed set of historic district regulations to collect dust. "We need a common sense approach to maintaining the historic character of the city instead of just avoiding the issue," wrote Ulrich in a letter read at the April 14 meeting of Lewes Council. "As it stands, people are building whatever they want in this district without any regard to the neigh- borhood at all....I believe the sections of the code pertaining to the historic district should either be enforced or deleted from the code." After considerable discussion of Ulrich's concerns, Lewes Council members voted unanimously to contact Jack Gallagher, who chaired the committee that came up with a set of proposed histOric district regu- lations. "Perhaps Jack could meet with us in a workshop and educate us and the public as to what was proposed. We'd also have to check the applicability of what was pro- posed seven years ago - given change that's occurred over that time." City Manager Elaine Bisbee noted that the committee chaired by Gallagher had written a set of proposed regulations. "The regulations were proposed, the public hear- ings were held, and the matter was tabled and has been on the table ever since," said Bisbee. Councilman George Cleaver said be had served on the historic district committee. "We came up with some standards, not di- rectives," said Cleaver. "We wanted people to keep homes in the historic district in the period in which they were built. R came up in 1990. The proposal was finished, but no vote was taken." Mayor George Smith, a member of Lewes Council at the time, said there were concerns that regulations would create fi- nancial hardships. He said there were also concerns that the size of the designated his- toric district - much of Lewes on the main- land side of the canal - perhaps was larger than it should be. And Councilwoman Eli- nor Sheehan recounted a tale from a previ- ous city attempt at historic preservation when a committee of town officials came to her house toattempt to stop her from putting siding over her wood siding. "I had a build- ing permit, I had pur- chased vinyl siding and I had an installer," said Sheehan. "I told tfiat committee that the first person that stepped on my property to try to ULRICH stop that installation - God help them," said Sheehan, "and I meant it. That siding didn't hurt the looks of my house and I'd do it again. I did what I had to do to protect my property. I have a big house that's been in my family since 1834 and I have no intention of selling it. I can't keep it up at this age and time in my life. That's why I went with the siding." Mayor Smith noted that it's difficult to legislate aesthetics. And there are people who can't afford what a committee might like to see. "But you're absolutely right," "he said to Ulrich, "nothing's resolved." Lewes resident Jim Ippolito said he recalled that most of the opposition to the proposed regulations was based on financial con- cerns." "I don't think that a committee - within reason- should be able to tell proper- ty owners what they can or can't do with their property," said Sheehan. "But I think the proposals deserve a good look because we are the oldest town in the state." "Maybe it's time to start up where the process stopped and determine what changes and modifications might be neces- sary," said Pratt. Council members also asked city solicitor Tempe Steen to look for notes that may have been taken by former solicitor Jack Messick about the regulations, to determine the legality of the proposed regulations. Ul- rich noted in his letter that the historic dis- trict was adopted to "preserve and enhance the unique character and value of the older portion of the City of Lewes as an area of special charm and interest." He asked that the regs be an item on the agenda of the next council meeting.