Love Creek RV Park: Serious environmental issues

January 3, 2014

In an editorial, “RV park, crawl before walking,” Nov. 22, the Gazette suggested a half-size, 300-site version of the proposed Love Creek RV park to evaluate potential traffic and environmental impacts. Left unclear was how impacts will be evaluated or by whom or for how long. A “successful” trial, however it is determined, could lead to approvals for a full-size 628-site park even though it does not logically follow that a much larger park will be acceptable even if the smaller version somehow works.

But, regardless of size, serious environmental issues remain for the RV park. Requests from DNREC to expand forested buffer zones along Love Creek and Hetty Fisher Glade beyond the 50 feet required by Sussex County were rejected, even though the developers expanded some buffers around Welches Pond, Ward Road and non-tidal streams. The literature supporting the value of wider riparian buffers to reduce pollution is extensive and has been summarized by the Center for the Inland Bays.

Is it possible this apparent unwillingness to incorporate adequate buffers or features such as rain gardens to filter pollutants is driven by a desire to develop extensive low-lying areas along Love Creek? It may not be apparent to the casual observer that a large part of the park is planned for the 100-year flood plain, since the developers did not include a topographic overlay in any of their plans, In fact, the flood plain at this site extends hundreds of feet inland up to six feet above mean high water.

Our own topographic map, constructed combining data from the Delaware Geological Survey and a digitized site plan, was submitted both to council and planning & zoning in earlier testimony. This map showed numerous RV sites as low as two to four feet above mean high water. Although legal, these sites are in danger of flooding from run-of-the-mill storm surges. Since the developers want to emphasize season-long rentals in “premium” sites along Love Creek, it's quite possible that absentee owners will leave RVs stranded in the event of flooding, thus endangering local ground and surface waters. More severe flooding risks additional RV sites plus cabins, a bathhouse, the canoe rental facility and the dockside bar, all planned within the 100-year flood plain.

Because the flood plain soils are sandy and unstable (USDA-NRCS analysis) and because groundwater is within three feet of the surface (Delaware Geological Survey data), access roads and RV pads will be paved to prevent large RVs from sinking into the ground, effectively converting the RV park into a huge asphalt parking lot. Typical problems from parking lots include hydrocarbon and heavy metal run-off from vehicles. If flooding ruptures connections between RVs and waste lines, then sewage and chemicals used to clean waste storage tanks may further contribute to the noxious cocktail potentially contaminating nearby ground and surface waters.

We urgently need to preserve undeveloped land along our Inland Bays and tributaries to protect surface and ground water resources. Ground water, aka the unconfined aquifer, is the source of all drinking water in Sussex County and the main source of fresh water for the Inland Bays. Thus, the aquifer has a major impact on the health and well being of our fellow citizens and the recreational value of the Inland Bays, a major tourism resource. Do we want to experiment with these resources?

DNREC Secretary O’Mara stated he “strongly believes that this site is worthy of permanent protection” (letter dated January 24, 2013, to Planning & Zoning Chairman Wheatley). We urge adoption of Secretary O’Mara’s proposal and suggest the council investigate a suitable exchange of development rights to preserve this site in future.

Steve and Judy Britz

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