Conservation is the goal, commercialization is the danger

December 9, 2022

This past Monday was a great day for democracy in Delaware. The DNREC Division of Parks and Recreation’s public meeting at Cape Henlopen High School centered around an invited proposal to explore building a restaurant and bar in the park. The turnout was huge, the discussion was robust though civil, and the information exchanged was illuminating. It was a memorable example of citizens exercising their First Amendment rights in the service of preserving Cape Henlopen State Park.  

There is a beauty, at once mysterious and captivating, that dwells in the park’s 5,193 acres. That beauty radiates a transcendent grace. Human intervention can, however, destroy that wondrous domain where brown-headed huthatches nest, where white-tailed deer graze, and where monarch butterflies flutter. 

The Warner Grant Trust proclaimed that the parklands be administered forever. To do so, conservation must be the top priority. That sacrosanct priority is jeopardized whenever commercialization imperils conservation. While environmental sentiments are admirable, their realization is formidable. So let us not speak falsely: maintaining the park is costly. And when such costs are substantial, the need for money makes conservation vulnerable to commercial alternatives. Ill-advised economic fixes inevitably portend problems. Thus, people of goodwill should support only those plans that best enhance the park’s financial stability, but in ways that least threaten its viability. 

Thanks to the admirable organizing efforts of the Preserve Our Park Coalition, and to La Vida Hospitality’s civic credit, the restaurant/bar’s proposal was withdrawn. Such efforts signify the importance of preservation and business and groups working together to save our natural resources and curb irresponsible development. “In God’s wilderness lies the hope of the world – the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness” so spoke John Muir, the revered conservationist. Let those words inspire us to work together.  

Ronald KL Collins 
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