A group of Lewes residents is concerned about the future of Cape Henlopen State Park if a proposed restaurant inside the park becomes a reality.
Nine residents shared their worries in a Sept. 23 letter to the editor.
They wrote: “Let’s be sure our decisions consider the life, the ecological integrity and the natural beauty of the park. Together, let’s support all efforts to protect and appreciate the remarkable treasure we know and love – Cape Henlopen State Park. We join with local conservation groups and other concerned Delaware residents to oppose this proposed oceanfront restaurant construction.”
“Almost everyone I know missed the restaurant idea,” said resident Elaine Simmerman. “People are now talking, and they are upset. The issue is the oceanfront restaurant.”
She said a list of 10 questions outlining their concerns has been presented to DNREC officials. She said state and local authorities have been left out of the process. “The [project] supposedly can proceed given that construction costs be borne by the La Vida group,” she added.
La Vida gets contract
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.
At the workshop, park staff were on hand to describe the proposed projects and answer questions. Public input on the proposals was also solicited.
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. A display board at the workshop depicted a rendition of a 6,300-square-foot restaurant. The current bathhouse is 6,700 square feet.
Michael Globetti, DNREC media relations manager, said 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,” he said.
Globetti said DNREC has the authority to enter into contracts for a maximum period of 25 years. In this case, La Vida has proposed capital improvements that would require longer timelines for return on investment, and DNREC would evaluate their final proposal to determine a term for up to 25 years.
“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, Taco Reho and Big Chill Surf Cantina.
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.