Concerns vented on Silver Lake fountains

November 15, 2019

The following letter was sent to the Rehoboth Beach mayor and commissioners, with a copy submitted to the Cape Gazette.

The fountains appeared suddenly on Silver Lake in the middle of the summer, and their impact on the closest neighbors was immediate. On the east side of the bridge, the spray hit the bridge and my dock and the Fabrizios’ - curtailing the use of the docks, at least; and the constant noise, like a bathtub filling at full tilt, reached us and the Rowlands. But word from City Hall was that they were aesthetic and that everyone loved them.

My initial reaction was that we deserve better than this. Owners along the lake spend lots of money to keep their properties in showcase condition, and I know we’re at least partially responsible for many smiles as people cross into our fair city. So why are we being punished? I first thought to complain along these lines, on behalf of my lakefront neighbors and me. But I started talking with other neighbors, friends and people I chanced upon - people who live on or near Silver Lake and in the greater Rehoboth area -and I learned that the issues go beyond the spray and beyond the people who live on or near the lake.

I also began a conversation on NextDoor to dig out additional concerns and voices. (A NextDoor conversation in August came up mostly positive, but many of its responses seemed to assume that the fountains were doing serious aeration work, which apparently isn’t the case.)

My NextDoor post picked up 40 comments in four days. (Although I was soliciting unfavorable reactions, about a quarter of the comments favored the fountains.)

Reviewing both the personal and NextDoor responses, I found substantial disenchantment with the fountains.

(I will try to leave taste out of this discussion. So I won’t even mention the two nights this week when colored lights were cycling through the western fountain like a lava lamp.)

Among the unfavorable comments were a few single mentions: concern with a freezing hazard on the bridge; light pollution; and keeping wildlife away from the fountain areas.

Several reactors equate the fountained lake with the all-too-common fountained containment ponds in every housing development.

The weightiest disenchantments are, first, that they were a waste of city money if they aren’t really aerating.

Second, that their spray is annoying to and possibly unhealthful for bikers, walkers, boaters, and users of nearby docks. Even on fairly windless days, gusts happen, blowing unexpected plumes of spray harmlessly here or there, or not harmlessly onto docks, boaters, or the bridge. Pollutants - yet to be determined - would be atomized and inhaled.

Third and most strongly, that Rehoboth has lost a place of natural charm. For 16 hours every day the lake near the bridge is no longer serene; it is no longer a point of natural peace and beauty. For many, the showpiece of the city’s entrance from the south has been diminished.

Unfortunately, except for maintenance and the electric bill, the money is gone. Would the city be willing to eat its $30,000 investment if it yanked its “aesthetic contributions”? Or add cost by towing them as far away from residences as possible, possibly even converting them to solar power? Or, maybe, find a new home for them in a retention pond?

More important, how will the city give us back the placid natural beauty of the lake near the bridge, and how will the city keep the annoying, possibly toxic, spray off bikers and walkers and boaters and users of their docks?

These are not rhetorical questions.

Tom Childers
Rehoboth Beach

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