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November 18, 2008     Cape Gazette
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November 18, 2008
 

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_7- 4 TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 18 - THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2008 NEWS cape Qazett World War II veteran on mission to restore Fort Miles Horace Knowles among first to arrive By Ron MacArthur ronm@capegazette.com Horace Knowles slowly walks the sands of Cape Henlopen State Park. He stops for a mo- ment, closes his eyes and slips back in time to 1941 - to the fLrSt days of Fort Miles A smile comes over his face and tears well up in his eyes. The World War II fort, carved out of the sands of the park, was his home for almost four years. Key to East Coast defenses, the fort was heavily fortified with ar- tillery and a sophisticated mine- hying operation. In his mind's eye, where he is standing near the bathhouse, he can see his unit's four gun mounts. Across the parking lot, which was nothing more than sand dunes then, he can see bar- racks. He can see the ocean clearly from each of the gun mounts located several hundred yards from the shoreline; today large sand dunes and pine trees block the view. Sand and time have taken a toll on the remnants of the fort, in- cluding the gun. mounts. "There is so much history here and so much that is not being told," he said. "I want the true facts about Fort Miles known." Knowies, 87, grew up in the Seaford area and now lives in Lewes. He was stationed at Fort Miles from 1941 to 1944. In fact, he helped build the fort as one of the first soldiers to arrive in April 1941. Thanks to the efforts of people like Gary Wray, Fort Miles His- torical Association president, and Lee Jennings, chief of cultur- al resources for Delaware State Parks, Fort Miles is starting to come back to life. But there is one piece of the restoration of the fort that has extra-special meaning to Knowles. He is on a mission to help pre- serve four gun mounts he and other members of the 261st Coastal Artillery manned 24 hours a day during the war. The concrete mounts are in the vicin- ity of the present-day park bath- house close to the parking lot. Knowles, who had a building background, helped construct the mounts. During the war, 155- mm guns were in place on the mounts aimed out at the ocean. Since the war, a boardwalk for beach access from the bathhouse was constructed over top of gun mount No. 1, which was the site of the main gun where Knowles was stationed. Knowles said permission has been granted to begin work to re- store all but one of the mounts. Most of the work will require digging out sand and clearing away brush to uncover all of the large, concrete mounts. He wants a small trail cut to connect the mounts from the parking lot to the bathhouse. And Knowles wants permission extended to restore all gun mounts - including No. 3. "I'm fighting to get this one restored as well," he said. Knowles, who has been doing some work himself to clear dead brush away from the mounts, wants the proiect completed as soon as possible because his own clock is ticking. He wants the work to progress faster. "I'm not sure when the good Lord is going to call me. If Fcould see these four gun mounts re- stored, I would be able to go peacefuL" he said. "It looks like if the work is go- ing to get done, I will have to push it."- It's not that he isn't grateful for what has taken place so far and what is in the works today - the formation of a muse- am at Battery 519. ".I can never express how much I appreciate what Gary Wray and Lee Jennings have done," he said. "The least I can do is devote some of my time" Wray said one workday has taken place and another will be scheduled in the near future, "These things move slow, but they move," Wray said. "You have to understand these mounts do not belong to us; they belong to the state" Wray said the association has been meeting with state officials for months to coordinate efforts to begin a serious restoration project. A workday to restore mount No. 4, the one closest to the parking lot, will be an- nounced during the association's annual meeting at 10 a.m, Satur- day, Dec. 6, at the Biden Center in the park. Historical signage is also in the works to explain the significance of the gun mounts, Wray said tons of sand would have to be removed, requiring some heavy equipment. "I know Horace wants all four mounts restored," Wray said. "We will do No. 4 fn'st and then see what happens after that." Wraysaid he understands Knowles' urgency as he ap- proaches the project. Knowles has spent more time alone at the park the past few weeks than he has the past 60 years. "I've had a lot of time to think and ask myself why am I doing this?" The answer was clear. "I have to do it for the 261st and all my friends who are now gone. I want them all to be remembered," he said. He also wants people to un- derstand the historical signifi- cance the 261st played in the de- fense of the country. Knowles is convinced the four 155.mm guns played a pivotal role in the de- fense of the East Coast. "Hitler knew about our defenses, knew we had these guns here and they were a big part in the reason he never attacked the East Coast." Rehoboth planners begin dead-end streets discussion Panel looking to establish standards By Ryan Mavity ryanm@capegazette.com While the idea may be about dead ends, the Rehoboth Beach Planning Commission is on the idea superhighway when it comes to changing city code re- garding residential dead-end streets. The city commissioners charged the planners with com- ing up with ideas for code changes. While nothing has yet been put on paper, the commis- sion has proposed setting a mini- mum standard of 24 feet of paved street with parking on both sides. The standards would apply for residential developments with a 250-foot-long street or a street serving a minimum of 10 houses. In order to be subject to the code changes, the developer must prove to the commission that the property is unique to the community. Chairman Preston Littleton al- so suggested several options de- velopers would have, such as having 11 feet of paved roadway with seven feet on each side for parking or about 25 feet of total width. Other options discussed were sidewalks 5rid utility easements. Developers would have to pro- vide a turnaround but would have the option, with the ap- proval of the planning commis- sion, as to what the design of the turnaround could be. "We'd be looking for the appli- cant to tell us how they are going to do it," Littleton said at the Nov. 10 planning commission meet- ing. Commissioner Patrick Gossett said, "Instead of following the standards as they exist, we're es- tablishing minimum standards to work from." Commissioner Harvey Shul- man he liked the suggestions but did not like the requirement of a "unique site." He said the trigger should be preserving natural fea- tures. City code specifies that a short, dead-end street must have 40 feet of paved street with an 80-foot wide turnaround at the end. The decision to look into changing the code came about at the request of the Lovett family, which is trying to subdivide its Oak Grove Motor Court proper- ty, located at the entrance to Re- hoboth next to the Lewes-Re, hoboth CanaL The Lovetts want the change in the code to help protect trees that would be cut down if the family conformed to code. The planning commission has been receptive to changing the code if those changes are in the interest of protecting the en- vironment. "If there is justification for the protection of green aspects, then the planning commission should have discretion to reduce what's called for in the code but estab- lish criteria you can't go below;' Littleton said Littleton said code changes were not being considered mere- ly because the Lovetts asked for it, but also because the changes would be in the city's interest. "The whole genesis of this thing was something that would trigger a negotiation with a de- veloper to do the right thing. That's the whole purpose of it. We're not doing this to serve the need of the developer. We're do- ing this to open up these kinds of conversations," he said. The next step for the commis- sion is to put its ideas into the form of an ordinance to be dis- cussed at the next scheduled planning commission meeting, Monday, Dec. 8.