Paving nature for parking? Nope.
It’s high summer. Traffic and where to park immediately come to mind when we get in our cars.
Perhaps it’s the time of year, or maybe the heat that led a beach parking committee in Lewes to suggest that the way to get 100 new parking spots on Lewes Beach is to pave the natural, tree-covered area behind the primary beach lot.
Joni Mitchell springs to mind: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
Before Lewes starts paving, it’s time to give hard thought to the importance of preserving access not only to the beach but to the trees and the natural settings that are essential to the city’s appeal.
The existing lot is rarely crowded except during these high summer months. Does Lewes really want to pave a large space that will be virtually empty close to 10 months a year?
One city official pointed out that expanding the existing lot would provide visitors with restroom and shower facilities, and could reduce traffic on residential streets from the lot to Roosevelt Inlet.
Access to restrooms is clearly a problem for visitors. Too many are using the dune in ways they should not. But the answer is not a parking lot. While beach residents already oppose it, restroom facilities should be considered. More trash receptacles and more frequent collection may also curb trashy behavior.
As for congestion, a major cause is that too many homeowners have taken over city property, limiting parking on public land, thus limiting access to public beaches.
Before paving anything, Lewes should determine and then strictly enforce public rights of way. Officials should also consider an efficient shuttle service from existing parking lots to and from the residential streets on Lewes Beach.
Some beach residents want to restrict parking – and access – for themselves and their visitors. City policy should safeguard public access while guarding against unacceptable behavior. Lewes Beach is a beautiful, wide public beach, and it should stay that way.
As the same song also reminds us, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”