Does Lewes Beach have a parking problem or are people just lazy?
For Lewes Beach resident Paul Ross, it’s the latter.
“I’ve never seen yet where there’s no parking availability in my immediate area,” said the Vermont Avenue resident. “People just don’t want to cross Cedar to get to the bay. The people who rent across Cedar, they cross all the time and traffic gives way to them. You’re talking about 50 or 60 extra steps to parking that has never been filled.”
Ross was speaking at the Aug. 13 meeting of the Lewes Beach Parking Committee, a group looking at parking issues on the beach side of the city.
The group has been analyzing various issues, including homeowners’ encroaching into city right of way, parking alternatives and behavior of visitors on the beach and in the streets.
Ross is not the only resident to say there’s plenty of parking on the residential streets from Savannah Road to Roosevelt Inlet.
Not everyone agrees, though. Many residents said when Cape Henlopen State Park and Lewes’ public lots are full, visitors head into the residential streets to find parking.
Resident Gail van Gilder said the city should look out for its residents first and foremost. She suggested the city create priority parking for residents and allow residents to save spaces in front of their homes.
She also recommended officials consider beach tags, an expanded beach patrol and signage to notify motorists when the public parking lots are full.
She said she is not in favor of expanding public parking lots, as was debated at the committee’s July 30 meeting.
“If you built it, they will come,” she said. “It will just bring more people, and they will fill those spaces until they’re gone. More parking spaces equals more cars on Kings Highway and Savannah Road.”
Resident Joy Stephenson said safety should be the top priority for the committee and the city. She said the city should consider adding yellow lines to the streets to enforce state law that prohibits parking within 30 feet of a stop sign. Many residents have complained that illegally parked cars block their view of vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic on the beach streets.
Stephenson said the committee should also consider adding bike racks at dune crossings, crosswalks and possibly adding a traffic light at Cedar Street and Savannah Road.
Resident Laurie Carter, a former employee at Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said the city should consider carrying capacity when discussing additional parking. She said the state developed a formula for Cape Henlopen State Park to determine when the park is at capacity and must be closed.
“The city really needs to come up with a formula,” she said.
Committee member Pres Lee, president of the Board of Public Works, said he was surprised to hear few comments about parking passes for the beach. Deputy Mayor Fred Beaufait, committee chairman, said they have received several emails speaking to that issue, and it will be part of the committee’s considerations moving forward.
Committee members will begin discussing possible recommendations at their next meeting, set for 5 p.m., Monday, Aug. 20, at city hall. Not only will parking be part of the discussion, but also the behavior of residents and visitors and environmental concerns.
Councilman Dennis Reardon, a beach resident, said bad behavior is not limited to visitors.
“We also have an attitude that exists on Lewes Beach that says we don’t want anybody here, and we’re going to do what we can to prevent parking,” he said. “I didn’t believe it because it’s very welcoming in my area, but I’ve seen it.”
Resident JuneRose Futcher took exception to Reardon’s comments, saying visitors must be respectful to those who live there. She said visitors run amok on lawns, use outdoor showers as bathrooms, let dogs run loose and play loud music.
“They’re taking advantage of the free public use of Lewes Beach,” she said. “They’re disrespecting the residents, the property and a tremendous resource many of us have been taking care of for decades.”
Lee did not like how Futcher portrayed the beach.
“I live on Lewes Beach and the picture you paint of Lewes Beach in the paper and here is not the Lewes Beach I know, and I’ve been here since 1988,” he said.
Resident Keena Ross said she also has had few bad experiences.
“I’m a little disturbed with the negativity mentioned because for the most part I’ve found it to be the opposite,” she said.
Beaufait said residents also have to take some responsibility for poor decisions.
“We have for a number of years heard stories about residents throwing eggs on cars parked in front of their house … [also] paint, trash,” he said. “Some of our residents – and they may be renters too – have misbehaved badly, just as some visitors have misbehaved badly. It’s not a one-sided story. We’re trying to deal with both sides of this coin.”
Did you know?
Did you know there was once a street that runs parallel to Bay Avenue and Cedar Street in front of the Bay Avenue homes? Longtime residents of the beach, including Keena Ross and Jim Bastian, spoke fondly of the street at the Aug. 13 meeting.