A floating dock and a kayak launch are part of an $835,000 project on the bank of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.
The project calls for a 60-foot floating dock on the canal bank at the Rehoboth Beach Museum to support, for a limited time, a water taxi or other vessels such as small powerboats and pontoon boats. The dock would be accessed via a ramp from street level to the water, making the dock wheelchair and bicycle accessible. A kayak/canoe launch is also proposed.
The Rehoboth Beach commissioners endorsed the project March 5, allowing it to move forward in seeking funding.
Matt Spong, founder of Landscape Architectural Services, has been working on the project for close to seven years.
“It seems like now, with the Junction Breakwater Trail going through there, would be a good time to revisit it. With a better economy, Gov. Carney has indicated there may be some extra money for capital projects. There’s also grants available,” he said.
What he was seeking from the Rehoboth commissioners was permission to seek state grants through the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Parks and Recreation and Delaware Department of Transportation’s Community Transportation Fund, as well as private financing.
Mayor Paul Kuhns said, “They need us to say, ‘This is something we’re interested in.’”
Commissioner Toni Sharp said, “I can honestly say I love this project. If endorsing it gives us the opportunity to get the wheels going, I’m wondering if that is something we should move forward on.”
At this point, city officials do not know how much money the city would have to contribute to the project, but Kuhns said that will depend on grants. He said the project is in the city’s comprehensive development plan.
Commissioner Lisa Schlosser said, “I don’t see why we wouldn’t do this. We’re not at any risk in endorsing at this point.”
Sharp said further discussions are needed on issues like safety and who would maintain the dock once it’s built. Commissioner Patrick Gossett said he supports the project, but that the commissioners need to have more discussion on funding.
The idea for a dock has been discussed since 2011, when a dock was sought for a water taxi between Lewes and Rehoboth. Spong said the idea would be to link Lewes and Rehoboth via the canal.
Spong said the water taxi could help cut down on the number of car trips between Lewes and Rehoboth and will improve access to the canal for ecotourism, such as birdwatching. He said Lewes would have to be included in funding for the project since additional upgrades will be needed for the dock there. Lewes renovated its docks at Canalfront Park in 2017.
In Rehoboth, Spong said, invasive vegetation on the canal banks would have to be removed. That vegetation would be replaced by new landscaping and a riparian buffer at the water’s edge.
“What this does is create a really nice look coming into Rehoboth from the canal bridge,” he said.
Spong said the dock would have only four or five slips.
“It’s not intended to be a marina,” he said.
The project would involve permits and leases from DNREC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before moving forward, Spong said. The Army Corps owns the bank and leases it to the Rehoboth museum. Spong said the 30-year lease - signed in 2005 - allows for general waterfront improvements; he said the corps has indicated to him it has no problems with the proposal. He said construction of the dock would take place primarily from a barge in the canal.
Spong said construction could begin as soon as early 2019 and be completed by the fall.
“I’m optimistic, and I think it’s a great project,” he said.