Marker honors history of Rehoboth lakes

Freshwater treasures were critical to early settlers
August 29, 2014

Lake advocates and state and local officials made their way to Rehoboth Beach's Silver Lake Aug. 25 to celebrate the unveiling of an historical marker.

The marker describes the history of the lakes and their importance to the Rehoboth area. The plaque, installed off Silver Lake Drive, tops off the 10th  anniversary of Save Our Lakes Alliance3.

“Today is about history,” SOLA3 president and founder Sallie Forman said.

Forman told the story the marker: contacting state legislators Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, and Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, who sponsored the measure. The marker is one of more than 570 throughout the state.

“It takes so much to make a place special," Lopez said. "But this is part of the process that makes places like Rehoboth and coastal Sussex County special.”

SOLA3’s was organized in 2004, which also marked the beginning Schwartzkopf's political career. Schwartzkopf recalled Forman and SOLA3 first approaching him in 2004 about passing a resolution declaring the lakes a state treasure.

“It culminates today with a historic marker remembering and reminding everybody how important these lakes were to our early settlers and how important they are for us today. They are a treasure. They are something we should all be cognizant of,” Schwartzkopf said.

Schwartzkopf credited Forman and SOLA3 with establishing the state's ownership of Silver Lake.

“It’s been a 10-year battle trying to get someone to claim ownership to rightfully go in and try to do something,” he said.

One of the state’s first orders of business was to make Silver Lake subject to the state’s Subaqueous Lands Acts, requiring a permit from Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control for any new construction.

DNREC also plans to dredge the western finger of the lake – the state made $200,000 available for the project – but those plans were temporarily shelved when bids came in three times higher than budget.

“We need to make sure our waterways are safe and enjoyable for everyone that is using them,” DNREC Secretary David Small said.

Addressing members of SOLA3, Small said, “The way you have gone about your advocacy for these lakes is very special. You’ve done it through your diligence, your patience, your perseverance, through good research and most of all good education. You have raised the awareness of the importance of these waterways to the community and the region in a very helpful and constructive manner.”

The late Warren MacDonald of the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society conducted much of the initial research into Silver Lake’s historic status, Forman said. Attorney Gene Lawson, on SOLA3’s behalf, conducted later research into Silver Lake’s ownership. Forman said she would like to go through MacDonald’s research, which is in the historical society’s archives, and put together a museum exhibit about the lakes.