A final decision on the possible construction of a restaurant in Cape Henlopen State Park is expected to be made by Dec. 31.
The proposal has created a letter-writing campaign to this newspaper and state officials in opposition.
Another presentation on the project and opportunity for public input will be available at the next Parks and Recreation Council meeting at 9:30 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 3, at the Killens Pond Nature Center, 5025 Killens Pond Road off Route 13 north of Felton.
“This proposed project is currently in a planning process to explore and collect information,” said Shauna McVey, Delaware State Parks community relations coordinator. “The food service and bathroom at Cape Henlopen State Park are currently one of the division’s greatest areas of complaints about our state parks system. With historic visitation and year-round use, such as camping, our visitors’ feedback increasingly calls for improved food service and more bathrooms at the main beach bathhouse area.”
The idea for a restaurant was presented during a June 13 workshop at the park detailing a long list of proposed capital projects, including enlarged camping areas, new trails, parking and paving upgrades, upgraded bathrooms, a new park office, water and sewer upgrades and connection to the Lewes system, improvements at the Biden Environmental Training Center and Fort Miles, to name a few.
Included in the presentations was an update on a request for proposals for park concessions. In the spring, La Vida Hospitality was awarded a one-year contract to operate the concession area at the Sen. David McBride Bathhouse. That included food service and beach rentals.
The agreement includes an option to negotiate a 24-year amendment to construct a restaurant at the northern end of the bathhouse parking lot, projected to be 6,300 square feet. The current bathhouse, which would remain on the south side of the parking lot, is 6,700 square feet.
The RFP was developed with the option of providing expanded food services and additional restroom facilities to meet visitor demand and expectations.
“If approved by DNREC, the new restaurant and bathhouse facility would be operational for the 2024 season. The existing McBride bathhouse would continue to be operational as well,” said Michael Globetti, DNREC media relations manager.
“Under the RFP award, La Vida has exclusive right to explore due diligence and project feasibility, and negotiate with DNREC for amendment or contract extension in the best interest of the state of Delaware and the Division of Parks and Recreation,” he said.
All permitting and capital investment would be the responsibility of the vendor. La Vida’s exclusive negotiation rights under the awarded RFP expire Jan. 1, 2023, unless an extension of the contract is executed by and between the parties prior to that date, Globetti said.
La Vida operates several restaurants in the area, including Big Chill Beach Club at Delaware Seashore State Park, Crooked Hammock Brewery outside Lewes, and Taco Reho and Big Chill Surf Cantina near Rehoboth Beach.
To see the contract bid through the Office of Management and Budget, go to bidcondocs.delaware.gov/NAT/NAT22001-PARK_CONSE-rfp.pdf.
To see a presentation on capital improvements, go to destateparks.com/wwwroot/downloads/parkplans/CHSP_Park_Improvement_Update.pdf.