Dune fence, more patrols recommended for Lewes Beach

Committee calls for measures to combat unacceptable behavior
September 12, 2018

Adding dune fencing and beefing up patrols along the beach are two strategies the Lewes Beach Parking Committee has proposed to stop people from going onto the dunes and using them for storage and as a bathroom. 

Meeting to develop recommendations Aug. 20, the committee focused on environmental issues along Lewes Beach. In a series of meetings over the last month, residents have complained about how beachgoers use Lewes Beach, noting some are urinating and defecating on the dune and storing kayaks, umbrellas, chairs and even boats on the dune overnight.   

The committee recommended Police Chief Tom Spell increase patrols on the beach to deter unacceptable behavior. In the last month, Spell said an officer has periodically patrolled the beach on a UTV, from Cape Shores to Roosevelt Inlet as well as the city’s trails. Reaction was initially unfavorable, but Spell said beachgoers have come around as they’ve interacted with police.

The committee recommended more patrols of the residential streets from Savannah Road to Roosevelt Inlet. 

Another common complaint is overflowing trashcans on the beach. The city’s streets department, which collects trash on the beach Monday, Wednesday and Friday, does not often see overflowing cans, City Manager Ann Marie Townshend said. The committee made no recommendations regarding trash collection. 

“I think this is overblown,” said Committee Member Pres Lee, a beach resident. “It’s not a complaint I hear. I don’t think it’s a huge problem.” 

“It does happen, but I don’t see it often,” said Councilman Dennis Reardon, also a beach resident.

The committee also recommended the city enforce a state law that prohibits parking within 30 feet of an intersection. When the city turned Cedar Street over to the state in 1977 it was agreed the city would enforce the 30-foot law; however, it’s not often enforced. By enforcing, the committee says a major safety problem caused by limited visibility could be solved. 

The committee deferred action on adding bathroom facilities on the beach from Savannah Road to Roosevelt Inlet. Reardon said it’s likely not within the committee’s capacity to make a recommendation on something with such a high price tag. “Facilities are not inexpensive,” he said. “That’s probably something the capital projects committee should consider.”

Townshend said the city could take one of two approaches: build a brand new facility or add portable toilets in select locations along the beach. She said the Town of Bethany Beach has built aesthetically pleasing enclosures for these toilets, shielding them from view. 

Beaufait asked if it’s even practical to add these toilets. He said the city would have to put in a concrete pad and bolt them down to keep them from blowing over. He also wondered how many the city would need to satisfy the need.   “Where would you locate them?” he asked. “People aren’t going to walk more than 50 feet to use a portable toilet.”

The committee will begin to tackle parking-related issues at its next meeting, slated for 10 a.m., Monday, Sept. 17. The agenda will be posted at one week before the meeting. 

Cape Henlopen State Park parking

Beaufait and Reardon met with Cape Henlopen State Park Superintendent Grant Melville recently to discuss the park’s parking situation. 

Melville said the park can handle 450 cars at its main beach parking lot and an additional 250 vehicles elsewhere in the park. Once rangers and staff determine all spaces are full, the park is closed. The park closes six to 10 times from July 1 to Labor Day, and it usually occurs about 11 to 11:30 a.m. The closure typically lasts about two hours, until 30 to 40 spaces are freed up for additional visitors. 

There is no formula for determining when the park is full, as was suggested by a resident at the committee’s Aug. 13 meeting. A formula was used many years ago to determine if the park needed to expand parking, Beaufait said. 

Beaufait said the state park deals with the same problems as Lewes Beach, specifically with people going onto the dunes and using the dunes as a bathroom.