State park should be affordable to all

October 31, 2022

I've seen many letters in the Cape Gazette about a proposed restaurant in Cape Henlopen State Park. The letters focus on the detrimental impact of a restaurant on the park's environment. I wholeheartedly agree with those letters. Building a restaurant on a beach dune, next to the Hawk Watch area, is counter to DNREC's mission to protect the environment.

My letter focuses on the purpose of the proposed restaurant. I understand that the park's position is that food service and bathrooms at Cape Henlopen are currently two of the greatest areas of complaints systemwide. I can believe that, but it's irrelevant. To justify the need for this restaurant, DNREC should focus on complaints specifically about CHSP, not systemwide complaints. Regardless, the proposed restaurant won't adequately address CHSP complaints either.

The park is planning many improvements such as connecting to the Lewes BPW system, Biden Center renovations, parking lot repaving, road improvements, new water lines, a new park office and widening the Gordons Pond Trail boardwalk. These are all great improvements, but none of them address the areas of greatest complaint.

The park's response to complaints about food service and bathrooms is to allow a private company to build a full-service restaurant in the park. This response does not adequately address the complaints. I work as a volunteer in the park, interacting directly with park visitors. My impression from talking to park visitors is that they view the park as a wonderful and budget-friendly place to visit. People come from Delaware and surrounding states to camp in the park, the most budget-friendly beach vacation available. Local people come to the park to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the 5,000 acres of nature adjoining Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Park visitors enjoy beach access, historic Fort Miles, free bike loans, a beautiful nature center, and the popular fishing pier. These are all budget-friendly activities. A new full-service restaurant would not serve the needs of park visitors on a budget. The restaurant would be a different type of amenity, drawing different customers that would otherwise be patronizing the great restaurants of Lewes and Rehoboth.

What our park visitors need is upgraded food options; not a full-service restaurant, not a snack bar with MLB ballpark prices. Perhaps a quality snack bar with Costco prices. They also need improved restroom and bathhouse facilities.

Instead of a for-profit solution that doesn't adequately address complaints, let's get state funding for improvements that do meet the needs of our park visitors. We can certainly find a way to improve Cape Henlopen State Park without resorting to building a restaurant that won't be affordable to many park visitors. A state park should be affordable for all visitors. Let's ask our state representatives to find a better funding solution for Cape Henlopen State Park.

Robert Callahan


  • A letter to the editor expresses a reader's opinion and, as such, is not reflective of the editorial opinions of this newspaper.

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