By a unanimous vote April 9, Dewey Beach commissioners approved a set of rules for the baywalk, public bayside beach and gazebo on Van Dyke Avenue that largely mirror those of the oceanside beach.
The one major difference in rules is that dogs will be permitted on the bay beach during the summer season when lifeguards are not on duty. A lifeguard may be assigned to guard the bay beach during certain hours depending on conditions, rules state.
Commissioners said lifeguard Captain Todd Fritchman had previously stated he didn’t want lifeguards to have to monitor dogs on the bay beach.
Dogs are allowed on the ocean beach before 9:30 a.m. and after 5:30 p.m. from May 15 through Sept. 15, and from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. from Sept. 16 through May 14.
Several commissioners said some residents were concerned the bay beach would become private and special event-focused. Commissioner Paul Bauer said many of the proposed rules have been in place on the ocean beach for decades.
Town Counsel Fred Townsend said officials can use an overriding set of principles when approving permits for special events and can determine if the proposed use takes too much of the beach away from public use.
“The criticism is that the town is monetizing the beach,” Townsend said. “Any permits you grant, and have granted on the ocean side, are not intended to be fundraising efforts on your part. There are administrative fees associated with monitoring the setup and cleanup, but it’s not an effort to generate revenue.”
Permitting is a way to allow someone to have semi-private use of the beach and is not done for the purposes of revenue, Townsend added.
During public comment, Dewey Business Partnership Executive Director Kelly Ranieri said the bay beach was meant to be a town center and doesn’t have the same capacity as the ocean beach. The town has a unique opportunity to market the bay beach as dog-friendly and less restrictive, she said.
The bay beach and gazebo can be used for special events via a town-issued special-use permit; usage is limited to two and a half hours during the summer season, including setup and cleanup, and setup for weddings must begin at 3:30 p.m. or later.
A swimming-only zone will extend at least 100 feet from the shoreline; boat mooring will be prohibited within the zone. Motor boats, including jet skis, can’t be launched from or landed on the bay beach during the summer; non-motorized boats such as kayaks and paddleboards can be launched from a designated area.
Glass containers are prohibited, and owners must clean up after their dogs, rules state. Consumption of alcohol on the public beach is prohibited during the summer, except for town-issued, permitted events.
Commissioner Gary Persinger motioned to approve the rules and for the town manager to report back to commissioners on the administrative policies used for approving or denying events. Policies should be readily available to the public, Persinger said.