Lewes Beach petition is misguided

November 10, 2023

Lewes as we know it today was built on six core values. They were created to guide the town in making decisions for the betterment of residents and visitors. By the looks of Lewes in 2023, that approach seems to be working pretty well. 

Two years after city officials held many public meetings and unanimously voted to name the city’s two guarded beaches – Savannah Beach and Johnnie Walker Beach – a growing group of people on social media is upset about the change, and a petition has been created to restore the name to generic Lewes Beach.

It appears many are either confused or uninformed about how the names came to be. City officials did not change the name of Lewes Beach. The stretch of sand from Roosevelt Inlet to Cape Henlopen State Park is still Lewes Beach. The city parks and recreation commission began the process when Commissioner Kay Carnahan surmised that calling the guarded areas Beach 1 and Beach 2 was unremarkable. Beach 2 also carried with it the connotation of being lesser, partly because it was once the only place Black families could go to the beach. 

Knowing the history, Carnahan reached out to the city’s African American heritage commission, because Lewes is a community of diversity (core value 2), and it strives to recognize and maintain its internal communities (core value 5). The commission responded favorably to the request and immediately recommended Johnnie Walker as a person worthy of recognition. Walker operated a restaurant at the site for many years during the period of segregation and was a champion of the Black community. 

Savannah Beach was much simpler – it sits at the end of Savannah Road, the city’s most recognizable street and main thoroughfare. Carnahan also openly asked for other suggestions throughout the process. Few others resonated. 

It appears the effort to reinstate the name of Lewes Beach is misguided, and we hope city officials stand firm against it. And for those who don’t like the new names, they don’t have to use them; they can call the beach whatever they want. 

  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

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