Major projects in works at Cape Henlopen State Park
Ray Bivens, director of Delaware’s Division of Parks and Recreation, said this year’s state bond bill contains the most amount of money ever allocated for improvements to the state's park system. Cape Henlopen State Park is slated for significant improvements including a new park office building, modernization and expansion of the Biden Environmental Training Center, and construction of a connection to the Lewes wastewater treatment plant, along with funding for a master plan for a new fishing pier.
The Biden Center is named in honor of our sitting president of the United States who, as a U.S. senator, was instrumental in having military lands in the park turned over to the state of Delaware. Bivens said the overnight environmental education center is the best training facility that the Division of Parks has. “We have plans to expand the facility, modernize it and make it available for overnight groups, though not for the general public.”
The Biden Center is an outgrowth of a World War II Fort Miles bunker complex and up until the 1980s served as a U.S.Navy facility. It was turned over to the State of Delaware after its decommissioning.
The existing Cape Henlopen State Park office is antiquated and small, and it will be replaced. Also antiquated and in need of replacement is the park’s popular fishing pier. It was also once part of the U.S. Army's Fort Miles complex and its operations related to placement of defensive mines in the mouth of Delaware Bay during World War II.
The fishing pier needs immediate repairs to some of its pilings, but grander plans are in the conceptual stage. This year’s bond money includes funding for a master plan for an entirely new pier.
“There are thoughts that the pier should be extended to twice its present length to allow people to fish in deeper water,” said Bivens. He said construction of a new pier could be eligible for federal infrastructure funding.
One of the least glamorous but definitely necessary improvements to be funded with this year’s bond bill money is a connection for the park’s wastewater system to Lewes’ treatment facilities. Parts of the existing system date back to Fort Miles days and are inadequate. “It’s time for us to get out of the sewer business out there,” said Bivens.
In doing research about the history of Cape Henlopen State Park, established in 1964, Bivens found that one of the park’s earliest proponents shares his last name. “John A. Bivens was Delaware’s first state planning director as well as the first president of Delaware Tech,” said Bivens. "He led the effort to have the former Fort Miles lands turned over to Delaware for a state park after the fort was decommissioned. The federal General Services Administration was considering a plan which would have seen those lands subdivided into acre and half-acre lots for development. He and other state officials went to Washington, D.C., in 1963 to testify before a GSA subcommittee favoring its use as a state park instead. Fortunately, he was successful.”
Bivens isn’t sure that he and the early Cape Henlopen State Park hero are related, but he’s absolutely certain that they share the same values and love for Cape Henlopen.