A vision for the future of Cape state park
Cape Henlopen State Park near Lewes is a jewel among the state's 17 parks. With more than 1.7 million visitors in 2021, it's become the state's most popular park.
The park, and its nearly 5,200 acres, is uniquely situated along the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean, which provides for a variety of activities. It's also unique as the location of a World War II fort used to defend the mouth of the bay. The Fort Miles Historical Area and Museum offer park goers a look at the important role the area played during the war.
As popular as the park is, it's about to get better, which will only increase visitations over the next few years. State park officials have laid out a long-term plan to improve the park with projects totaling nearly $80 million. While the projects listed as priorities include water and sewer improvements, paving, new bathrooms, enlargement of the park office, improved access and a major renovation of the Biden Environmental Education Center, work is also planned to add 16 miles of new trails, widen the popular Gordons Pond Trail boardwalk section and possibly build a restaurant.
Also near the top of the list is expansion of the park's campground, which offers 186 RV and camper sites, 54 tent sites and 12 cabins.
The popularity of camping has escalated thanks in part to a drive to get outdoors during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cape park's campground is feeling growing pains, even though it underwent a $4 million renovation project in 2017. It's at nearly 100 percent capacity in the summer months, and at 70 percent in the spring and fall.
The park is sharing in a $3.2 million federal American Rescue Plan Act grant with four other state parks that provide camping. Plans include adding more camping sites and building cabins in the youth primitive camping area.
Unfortunately, not high on the priority list is replacement of the park's historic fishing pier.
Park officials estimate replacing the pier will cost more than $16 million. They also point out that $2 million has been spent over the last 15 years for repairs.
At some point, a hard decision will have to be made about the future of the pier.
Cape Henlopen State Park is not only among the best in the state; it can hold its own against any state park in the region. We applaud Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation officials who have the vision to prepare the park for the future.