Allowing more beach vehicles a dangerous idea

July 20, 2014

I was disappointed to read of columnist Eric Brunley's advocating for the Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation's consideration of allowing vehicles to drive on park beaches even when not fishing. This is a ludicrous, alarming and potentially devastating idea that would benefit a few at the expense of Delaware's residents and visitors.

I fail to see what the impetus, necessity or benefit is for the proposal's consideration. I am assuming that vehicles could be allowed to drive on most of the beaches, and not confined to where they now are restricted for fishing.

Vehicles on the beach are environmentally hazardous with potential oil or gas spills, fumes, maneuvering upon and disturbing protected areas, increased trash and from towing of stuck vehicles.

Park maintenance and supervision, along with their associated costs, would increase, yet fewer admission fees due to reduced beach capacity for bathers, would become likely.

Vehicles roaming freely in previously exclusive swimming and sunbathing areas is a dangerous mix, destroying the beauty and solace for other users and creating significant safety hazards, with large trucks and SUVs vying for beach space competing with "pedestrian" swimmers and sunbathers. Risks include reducing water visibility for child supervision, accidents backing into pedestrians and pets, and maybe altercations between the two users. Vehicles would need to weave and maneuver between bathers, since no lines of demarcation are possible in the sand. Vehicles take up far more space than a family under an umbrella, and would likely seek waterfront parking. Far fewer bathers would feel comfortable and use a beach shared with vehicles. Imagine your beach blanket between or behind trucks in deeply rutted sand tire tracks!

In recent years, the park administration has increased the space available for vehicular fishing by encroaching on the bathers (and pets) area south of the towers at Gordons Pond, and they recently permitted fishing on bathing beaches, which with or without vehicles, is dangerous for swimmers and strollers along the water's edge. Fishing lines are nearly invisible and cannot be accurately controlled in the water.

The only palatable situation if any, may be to allow nonfishing vehicles within and confined to what now exists for fishing only and prohibited elsewhere. This would still have the problems noted above, however, with the problems far outweighing the benefit. Hopefully DNREC's new secretary, David Small, will investigate this proposal and reject it.

Bob Kaplan
Rehoboth Beach

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