Dewey Beach will install new benches, bike racks and signage on the town’s oceanside streets and a couple of bayside streets.
“We’re trying to get the town polished up for the summer,” said Dewey Beach Town Manager Marc Appelbaum.
Appelbau said, the existing metal signs are old and rusty, and people are encouraged to ride their bikes to the beaches, so providing them racks is important, and the benches allow for a spot to rest and provide an area to drop things off before parking.
The new signage will be styled after state park signs, with Plexiglas windows that open, look attractive and allow the town to change messages when needed, said Appelbaum. An example of what they’ll all look like can be seen in front of the Dewey Beach Life Saving Station on Dagsworthy Avenue.
The town will also add lighting at parking kiosks that can be hard to see at night and the end of Dagsworthy Avenue to help people coming off the beach after the town-sponsored family movie night.
“In the past, the town was so concerned about the budget that every penny was watched. Now, we’re hitting our numbers, and it’s time to get at some maintenance items that need to be taken care of,” said Appelbaum. “It’s better to spend the money now when the costs are relatively low, than wait until things need to be replaced and things get much more expensive.”
The town is expecting a surplus of nearly $300,000 for the fiscal year that ran from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014, the third consecutive year the town will have a surplus of more than $200,000. In FY2013 the surplus was $210,000; and in FY 2012, the surplus was more than $600,000.
Dewey Beach Police Sgt. Cliff Dempsey said the improvements will be helpful. He said the signs will direct people to town ordinances, make them more aware of town laws and give beach conditions.
“It makes safer access to the beach, and it will help us see what’s going on,” he said.
Dewey Beach Patrol Capt. Todd Fritchman said he's been requesting these upgrades for years and is pleased to see them happening.
“It's an overall good move that makes our beaches more user-friendly,” he said. “It increases our duneside appeal.”
Beach patrol writes civil violations – alcohol consumption on the beach, littering, smoking, illegal vending, said Fritchman, and the new signs will give a place for the lifeguards to point to when people have questions.
The benches are just as important, he said, because the town has no boardwalk, it gives beachgoers a chance to sit down, brush the sand off their feet and gather their belongings before heading out.
Appelbaum said the cost of these improvements is around $25,000. The town bought 31 large message centers for $19,375; 22 bike racks for $2,044; and 11 benches for $3,994. He said to help defray installation costs, sponsorship opportunities are available, similar to some of the benches that already sit at some of the beach entrances.
“The program is designed where the hope is the sponsorships will pay for all the costs,” he said. “It may take a year, but I think that will happen.”
Appelbaum said he's shooting to have the work done by Memorial Day, but he didn’t have a specific completion date. It will be ready for the season, he said.