Water taxi planners rally support

Improvements at Rehoboth museum estimated at $849,000
Mark Carter, spokesman for the Lewes Rehoboth Canal Improvement Association, gives a presentation on the proposed water taxi between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. BY RYAN MAVITY
February 29, 2012

A group working for a water taxi to link Lewes and Rehoboth Beach want to partner with the resort town to help secure financing for the project.

The Lewes Rehoboth Canal Improvement Association says a partnership would help secure state grants for the project.

During a Feb. 18 presentation of plans for the project, association spokesman Mark Carter said Lewes is already on board in its support of the taxi.

The plan's biggest hurdle is building a dock on the banks of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal at the Rehoboth Beach Museum large enough to host two 30-foot pontoon boats. The boats would ferry passengers between the museum and Lewes’ Canalfront Park. Estimated at a cost of $849,000, the project would also include a kayak launch and connect to the museum’s walkway. An outside vendor would operate the taxi itself.

Carter said the taxi would provide a welcome gateway for Rehoboth and would improve the banks of the canal, now made up of rocky riprap and overgrown with invasive vegetation in the summer.

“This project will create a park now, so when you drive across that bridge you say, ‘Oh wow, this is amazing. This is beautiful – I can’t wait to see the rest of this town,’” Carter said.

Tourism impacts

Scott Thomas, executive director of Southern Delaware Tourism, said, “How do we grow tourism, especially commerce in both downtowns, without putting more stress on the infrastructure we have now? It alleviates that, but it still allows people to move through the area, not only in a convenient way, but also in a desirable way. This will become an attraction within the area.”

Thomas said the taxi would help attract more visitors without adding more cars. He said he hopes eventually the taxi will also serve Dewey Beach and potentially Milton.

“I think this is a difference-maker. An attraction within an attraction,” Thomas said.

Official support lines up

Few attended the presentation but those who did supported the plan.

Richard Kirchhoff, owner/operator of the Canalside Inn Rehoboth, said, “I’m all for this. I think it’s tremendous.”

Citizens asked how the taxi would affect parking. Frank Cooper, a member of the Rehoboth planning commission, said, “Whatever it is that starts attracting people, you’re going to have to figure out some way to get people to it, other than a parking lot. It’s a great idea, I’m all for it, but you cannot ignore that.”

Sussex County Councilwoman Joan Deaver said, “I’m from Annapolis…I love it! That’s the economy of where I come from. I couldn’t think of a better thing. I do hope that people who live on the canal are OK with it.”

Henlopen Acres Commissioner Winnie Kee said people would be attracted not only by an easy way to move between the towns, but also by the natural beauty along the way.

“It’s a great thing to do,” she said. “Henlopen Acres is very much for it.”

Lewes Councilman Ted Becker said the taxi could offer an educational component.

“There is a great deal of wildlife to be observed. A whole educational component could add great value for a lot of people who take this thing,” he said.

After the meeting, Carter said suggestions from those in attendance were about the same issues the association is focusing on.

“The meeting was positive from our end. We would have loved to see more folks in attendance, but it was a beautiful Saturday, so we can't blame folks for enjoying the weather.”

The association plans more public meetings to raise awareness of the plan, Carter said.