July 4 is nearly two months away, but for Rehoboth Beach Main Street, the fireworks have already begun.
The Park & Ride lot at Shuttle Road will be open July 4, with buses into town. But a parking lot on Route 1 near Jungle Jim's, previously used for the fireworks crowds, will not be available this year.
Main Street instead plans to direct visitors to the Gordons Pond parking lot in Cape Henlopen State Park, about 2.5 miles north of the Star of the Sea on the Boardwalk, where the fireworks display is set off.
Kathy McGuiness, who coordinates the show for Rehoboth Beach Main Street, said the parking lot at Gordons Pond will provide a few hundred spaces; Main Street is also working with Delaware Seashore State Park south of Dewey to keep its lots open.
Rehoboth City Manager Sharon Lynn said her two primary concerns are providing sufficient parking and visitor safety.
Lynn said if public safety and the parking situation were not resolved to her satisfaction, the fireworks show would not take place.
Mayor Sam Cooper said the proposed traffic plan was bad news because it will force all traffic to come through the city in order to leave. He said the plan is especially problematic for buses taking people to the Park & Ride, which will be delayed by traffic from Gordons Pond.
"To put that extra traffic through the city could be killer," Cooper said.
Main Street plans to direct motorists to the new parking areas, McGuiness said, and signs will indicate when the lots are full. Parking at Gordons Pond will be $4 for Delaware residents and $8 for out-of-state residents; McGuiness said parking permits for Cape Henlopen State Park will also be honored.
Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks said people could watch the fireworks from the beach near the parking lot. Lynn and Banks said no buses will run from Gordons Pond into Rehoboth.
As for getting people out of town, Banks said the plan is for those at Gordons Pond to use Henlopen Avenue to the traffic circle. At the circle, two lanes of traffic will form, one for traffic from Rehoboth Avenue, the other from Henlopen Avenue. One lane will be sent out on Rehoboth Avenue Extended to Route 1; the other lane would be routed down Church Street to Canal Street and exit onto Route 1 at Holland Glade Road.
Traffic on the south end of town will be sent south, exiting onto Route 1 in Dewey Beach.
Banks said all officers, full-time and seasonal, would be on duty for the July 4 fireworks. He urged people coming to arrive early and to stay and watch the post-fireworks concert by The Funsters at the Bandstand as a way to ease traffic congestion. Banks said people should be patient because fireworks shows in Dewey, Bethany Beach and Ocean City will finish at the same time.
McGuiness said visitors are encouraged to arrive early because parking on Rehoboth Avenue will shut down in the Bandstand area about 6 p.m., with the first block closing at 7 p.m.
Visitors can park at the Park & Ride off Route 1 to bus into town or take the Jolly Trolley, which will run between Rehoboth and Dewey Beach. The fireworks show will start at 9:15 p.m. on the beach near the Star of the Sea at 307 S. Boardwalk.
A new, 90-unit hotel is expected to be going up this summer on the lot near Jungle Jim's that was previously used for July 4 parking.