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Desire to ban surf-fishing vehicles is about the money

March 25, 2017

There was a recent case where the owners of condos that face Three Rs Road and Delaware Seashore State Park tried to have the Parks Division ban surf-fishing vehicles from the beach because of the danger they pose to pedestrians. This made me curious about how often there have been accidents where a surf-fishing vehicle actually made contact with a beachgoer. To this end, I contacted DNREC and found out during the entire time there have been surf-fishing vehicles on the beach, there have been no recorded accidents between a pedestrian and a vehicle. The current chief of Parks Police has 22 years on the job and has never had a report of such an accident. I have been driving on the beach since 1973 and have not had even the slightest instance where such a collision would have occurred.

So, since the condo owners don’t have that to justify their claim, just what do they have a problem with? If you guessed money, you get the gold star for today.

It seems that in 1984, the state issued dune crossover agreements for Indian Harbor Villas and Kings Grant. The idea was to keep condo owners and their tenants from randomly walking over the dunes to access the beach. The fee from 1984 to 1990 was $1 per year.

Beginning in 1992, the communities that wanted to access the state parks paid $100 per year. Then in 2002 to 2005, the communities that had access agreements allowed them to lapse. They paid nothing until 2010, when the Division of Parks and Recreation issued new agreements charging each community $100 for one year of beach access. In 2011, the fee increased to $200 per year.

Now, the real reason for all this hubbub. Beginning in 2017, the fee to access state park beaches increases to $70 per unit plus the $200 annual fee. The $70 is the cost of an annual park pass for an out-of-state visitor.

If you break down the $70 fee for the three-month summer season, it comes out to about 77 cents per day. I can’t believe that anyone with the money to rent a beachfront condo during the summer is going to be turned off if the rent increases by 77 cents per day.

While the original request to ban surf-fishing vehicles was denied by the Division of Parks and Recreation, I have a very strong feeling we have not heard the last of this issue. The condo owners have hired a lawyer and a lobbyist to advance their cause. Both of these occupations cost a fair amount of money to employ, so I believe the condo owners have made further plans to achieve their goal.

I am not convinced they really want to eliminate surf-fishing vehicles from the state parks that are in front of their buildings. I have personally fished the Three Rs Road beach since 1973 and never had a single person come to me to complain about my truck. The condo owners never complained until a year or so ago. So what changed? The amount of money now required to access the state park.

I would not be surprised to see a plan put forth by the lobbyist or the lawyer or both, where they will drop the request for keeping trucks off the beach if the state will drop the $70 per unit fee. I think they are operating from a weak position, but I also don’t know how powerful the lawyer and the lobbyist are.

The right word to the right politician, and all bets are off. A lawsuit that puts DNREC in a position where they have to spend a considerable amount of money on a defense could spell trouble for beach access.

Since we have to wait for the condo owners to make the next move, we need to be very careful about how we behave on the beach. Do not confront any walk-on beachgoer, and do not break any rules. It would only take one stupid move by a mobile surf fisherman to blow our beach-driving access right out of the water.

Bill’s Flea Market

The always-popular Bill’s Flea Market will take place in the parking lot of Bill’s Sport Shop on Route 1 between Lewes and Rehoboth. There are a finite number of parking spaces for exhibitors, and if you choose to participate, an early arrival is mandatory. All spaces are first-come, first-served, and there is no charge to participate.

Most of the folks who are selling have used fishing equipment. There are usually some good deals both in the parking lot and inside the store.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age.  Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.  He has been the regional editor for Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.  Eric is the author of three books; Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits.  He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at Eburnle@aol.com.

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