Massages on the beach are not likely this summer in Dewey Beach.
Massages was a suggestion of the town's marketing committee, and came up for discussion during the town commissioners meeting in May. Commissioners voted to send the proposal to the planning commission for further scrutiny after a lengthy discussion about the use of the town’s beaches for commercial enterprises and the process for approving such activities.
Commissioners tasked the planning commission with addressing the issue during its June 7 meeting, so the commissioners could take a vote on the proposal during its next scheduled meeting Friday, June 20, but no proposal to provide massages was received, planning chair David King said.
Committee member Marilyn Seitz thought up the massages on the beach idea and said it's still being discussed, but time might run out on implementing the program this summer.
“We're going to continue to look for fun, healthy activities for Dewey Beach,” said Seitz of the committee's activities. “Massages are one of those healthy things.”
Heather Shafer, owner of the Rehoboth-based Kaya Wellness & Yoga, was expected to run the massage program. She is also in charge of beach yoga in Dewey, which runs seven days a week and is entering its fifth summer season.
Shafer said during the May meeting the plan was to offer massages in a portable tent from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday through Monday. She proposed offering massages on the oceanside of Swedes Street because that’s where the yoga takes place, so staff would already be there to help put up and take down the tent.
She declined to comment for this story.
Seitz said massages on the beach is in line with other beach activities already offered in Dewey: skimboarding classes, junior lifeguard and movies on the beach.
“It's about people of all ages coming together and using our God-given beautiful beach,” she said. “We don't have a boardwalk and we want to keep things nature friendly.”
The town's beach goes from grass, to dunes, to sand, to water, said Seitz, and the goal is to keep focus on nature.
Commercial uses on beach
While no action was taken specifically regarding massages, the planning commission discussed regarding commercial activities in general on the beach.
Dewey resident Elissa Feldman quickly pointed out there are already a handful of commercial activities on the beach, including yoga on the beach, the Alley Oop skimboarding lessons and a beach concessions contract with the town that provides ice, umbrellas and trash pickup.
Feldman said she opposed the idea of commercial activities on the beach because it would open up a giant can of worms.
Marc Appelbaum, Dewey Beach town manager, said a policy would be helpful to guide town commissioners and officials.
Jason Wilson, Alley Oop owner, said as a business owner, he would appreciate a process that was clearer. He said he's been providing the skimboarding classes for seven years, and it seems like every year there's a different process to getting approved.
“It would make my life easier for planning,” he said.
Wilson said there's a gray area with regard to what type of commercialization should be allowed on the beach because the promotion of healthy, outdoor activities is a good thing. He said applications should have to explain why they're good for the town.
Following the discussion, the commission agreed to not allow any new commercial activities on the beach for the immediate future, to hold public hearings on the issue and then possibly amend town code. No specific dates were set for the public hearings.