Rehoboth Beach officials have announced there will be no kayak rental service this year at its Grove Park canal dock.
The dock took years to come to fruition and was spearheaded by the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal Improvement Association. Through a number of different funding sources – private donations and grants – the organization raised about $1 million for the project. The city contributed nearly $300,000 and also took over control of the project once construction began in April 2020. The city officially opened the dock in May 2021.
Soon after the dock was complete, the city issued a request for proposals for motorized and non-motorized services. A couple of months later, the city awarded the motorized services to Lewes-based Cape Water Tours & Taxi, and the non-motorized services to Lewes-based Quest Adventures. At the time, everyone involved said it was too far into the 2021 season to begin either service. Instead, the plan was to work out the details of the services through the winter, with a goal of implementation sometime in the spring or early summer of 2022.
Commissioner Susan Gay brought up the subject of no kayak rental during a workshop June 6 and asked Interim City Manager Evan Miller to explain the reasons for the city not providing the service.
Miller said Quest had a number of concerns that weren’t going to be addressed this year – lack of storage and parking space, no kayak launch and safety concerns. For the time being, the service is pending, he said.
A kayak launch was originally part of the plan, but was ultimately scrapped in an effort to contain rising costs of the project.
Former Commissioner Pat Coluzzi, representing the LRCIA, is expected to attend the July commissioner workshop with hopes of addressing the launch. Mayor Stan Mills said Coluzzi thinks there’s room on the north side of the dock to fit a kayak launch of some kind.
The day after the workshop, June 7, Coluzzi confirmed Mills’ statement and said she can get the funding for the project, but she wants to take the temperature of the commissioners.
“I want to see if they want it first,” said Coluzzi.
Quest Adventure owner Matt Carter said June 9 his main concerns are safety and efficiency, and both of those issues need to be addressed before he puts customers in the water.
Speaking to efficiency, Carter said, right now there’s no place for overnight storage of equipment, and without a kayak lift of some kind, walking kayaks and standup paddleboards up and down a steep ramp with four 180-degree S-turns isn’t practical.
As for safety, in the case of an emergency, there are limited access points onto the canal from that area, said Carter. To the north, there’s Henlopen Acres, but once a customer heads south from that dock, there’s really nowhere for them to go unless they head back, he said.
In addition to general safety access, Carter said, there can be a lot of boat traffic on the canal at certain times of the summer.
“I really do want it to work, but there’s got to be more homework done before I put anyone in the canal from that dock,” said Carter.
Looking forward, Carter said, he would still like to participate in figuring out a way to provide the service. There could be set times for a guided tour or something along those lines, he said.
After learning there would be no rental service, commissioners asked Miller if the dock is being used at all. Although mostly informal at this point, Miller said the dock is used frequently by citizens with their own kayaks. There are multiple phone calls a day asking about the dock, and city staff see people using it, he said.
As part of the relationship between LRCIA and the city, LRCIA agreed to take care of maintenance for a set number of years. Commissioner Patrick Gossett expressed some frustration LRCIA wasn’t taking a more active role in the maintenance.
Coluzzi said if the city has concerns about the organization's involvement, it can reach out to her.
“I haven’t heard from anyone,” she said.
Water taxi service set to begin June 14
There may not be a kayak rental in Rehoboth this summer, but there will be a taxi service provided by Cape Water Tours & Taxi. Miller said the contract for that service was finalized this past week.
According to the Cape Water Tours & Taxi website, taxi services begin Tuesday, June 14, with round-trip tickets only on Tuesdays and Fridays. For more information on schedule, prices and trip availability, go to capewatertaxi.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 302-644-7334.