Restaurant can be done in responsible way
I have lived in the Lewes area all my life (73 years) and I have been a frequent visitor of Fort Miles and now Cape Henlopen State Park since I was in grade school. I worked at the park from 1965 to 1972 as a lifeguard, and then had the pleasure of serving on the steering committee for the master plan of the park in 1999. My family and many other lifelong residents have a lifelong history of the fort and park.
Lifelong residents of the area know that Fort Miles had about 2,000 men and personnel stationed there, and a lot of the buildings and gun emplacements were built to protect the area and the entrance to the Delaware Bay and River. After the war, the Army and Navy eventually left and Sen. Biden was successful in getting these lands turned back to the state.
When the master plan meetings were held in 1998 and 1999, there were still about 90 buildings remaining from Fort Miles as well as gun emplacements and fire watch towers. Buildings such as the fire house, gymnasium, motor pool, old park office and others have been removed and its footprint returned to its natural state for recreation. Many current residents don't know these buildings ever existed at the fort or park.
I have not always agreed with some of the decisions of the parks regarding Cape Henlopen State Park, but they had more information than I did and the park is better now than it ever has been. However, I am tired of the dramatic letter writing and groups of people overstating the so-called harm a restaurant would cause to the park. Some of these same people cried foul when the idea of a bike path through Gordons Pond was mentioned in 1999 during steering committee meetings for the master plan. Because of these protests, the path was shelved for several years until Gov. Markell went ahead with it in 2014, and it is now one of the nicest features of the park.
I have never thought we needed a restaurant at the park, but I do believe it can be done with little environmental impact, and it would provide a nice attraction for residents and visitors. And, more importantly, it would provide needed revenue to run not only Cape Henlopen State Park, but the other state parks as well. Cape and Delaware Seashore parks are the only ones that make money. If you travel to our national parks and other state parks, many have restaurants and lodges that raise funds to help run these parks. If they can do it in a responsible way, why can't Delaware do it? Delaware State Parks has a good track record running our parks and I trust them if they decide to build a restaurant at Cape Henlopen State Park.