Residents petition Lewes to change beach name

Some want Savannah name removed, city sees no change ahead
November 24, 2023

A small, but emotionally connected group of residents is petitioning the City of Lewes to change the name of Savannah Beach.

They said they have always known the beach at the end of Savannah Road as Lewes Beach. They claim they did not know it had ever been changed in the first place.

But, city officials say the Savannah Beach name is here to stay.

The residents went to the Lewes Parks and Recreation Commission’s monthly meeting Nov. 20 to push for the change.

“I think it hurt a lot of people to call it something else,” said Carol Garner, who grew up in Lewes. “Maybe it doesn’t mean as much to people who haven’t been here long, but it means a lot to us.”

Sherie Kincaid, who also grew up in Lewes, was there with the petition she started over the summer.

Kincaid has gone to Savannah Beach to collect signatures. She has more than 200 names so far.

“I was amazed at how many people knew nothing about [the change],” she said.

Mayor and city council approved names for the guarded beaches in 2021. Beach 1 was changed to Savannah Beach. Beach 2 was renamed Johnnie Walker Beach to honor the longtime African American businessman who operated a restaurant on the site.

The people who addressed the commission said they are not asking for the Johnnie Walker Beach name to be changed. 

Commission Chair Janet Reeves explained that Lewes Beach is still the name of the entire length of beach from Roosevelt Inlet to the ferry terminal.

She said the names were only changed at the two guarded beaches.

“Savannah Beach and Johnnie Walker Beach are subsets of Lewes Beach,” said Commissioner Mardi Thompson. 

“I honestly did not hear about this until spring. Somebody said they had changed the name, and I thought they must be talking about somewhere else,” Kincaid said.

Commissioner Kay Carnahan spearheaded the naming effort two years ago. She said the process was public, transparent and was covered extensively in local and regional media.

“I wish people had come forward during the process,” Carnahan said. “[Beach 1] was waiting to be given an identity. I’m sorry that people feel doing that took away from their connection. That was never the intent.”

Reeves said the city does not want to go through the process again.

“I don’t think there’s an appetite really to change it back. That’s not from this commission, it’s from the mayor and council as well. It’s gone through the public process,” Reeves said.

“It will always be Lewes Beach to me,” Kincaid said.

She said she will likely be back at Savannah Beach to gather more signatures on her petition.

In other beach news, the Johnnie Walker Beach subcommittee unanimously approved using ground-penetrating radar to try and find the exact location of a pavilion that once stood on the beach.

The panel voted on the measure at its Nov. 16 meeting after hearing details of how the device works.

Tom Noble, who does land survey work, told the subcommittee that ground-penetrating radar could find the original footprint of the pavilion if the pilings are still in the ground.

He said old plans and photos indicate the pavilion was located in the sand, just forward of the current parking lot at the end of Georgia Avenue.

The subcommittee wants to find the original location in hopes of one day building a replica pavilion there or nearby.

The ground-penetrating radar unit would come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, free of charge to the city.

Noble said the process is noninvasive and would take one day to complete the survey.

The subcommittee did not set a date for when the survey might be done.


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