The proposed canal access dock in Rehoboth Beach has seen more progress in the past year than in the previous 10 years combined. During a Rehoboth commissioner workshop May 2, Rehoboth commissioners learned just how close the project is to being a reality.
In a perfect world, said Dogfish Head’s Mark Carter, who is also a member of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal Improvement Association, the dock will be usable by next summer.
Last year – 2018 – was a banner year for funding the project. In July, Rehoboth commissioners approved $20,000 toward the project. In August, the project received a $300,000 Transportation Alternative Program grant from the Delaware Department of Transportation. In September, during a Connect the Canal Night fundraiser, Dogfish Head donated $25,000 and put up an additional $25,000 toward a matching grant opportunity. In November, the city announced the project had been awarded a $90,000 Outdoor Recreation, Park and Trails grant from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Parks and Recreation.
During the recent workshop, Carter said the association has raised approximately $650,000 toward the $830,000 project. Most recently, he said, Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, committed $100,000 toward the project from his Community Transportation Fund account. He added that Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, is thinking about matching Lopez’s amount.
Lopez confirmed the use of CTF money toward the project, but he said it would involve $50,000 this year and then $50,000 next year. “I look forward to being helpful on the project,” he said.
Schwartzkopf said he hasn’t committed to using any money out of his CTF account, but he said he might, and he’s trying to secure money for the project from the state’s annual Bond Bill.
Carter said the association is also working with grant-approving organizations like Longwood Foundation and the Delaware Community Foundation.
Landscape Architectural Service Principal Matt Spong has been working on the project since it was just an idea a decade ago. During the meeting, he presented a number of permits that had been attained in the past six months.
He said a land lease with the Army Corps of Engineers has been extended to November 2043. The Corps owns the land immediately along the canal, and the land lease was first signed in 2005. He said as long as the lease terms are abided by, the lease can be renewed indefinitely.
The Army Corps of Engineers has also authorized construction, doing so in March. Spong said it took six months of back and forth to get approval for construction.
Spong presented a construction permit from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section, which expires April 2022.
Spong said the reason for starting the permitting process is because they take six months to a year to get done, and if they aren’t started far in advance it would just push the project’s completion that much further out. “We’re ready to go full throttle whenever everybody else feels comfortable,” said Spong.
Spong said because of water-taxi options, the project has the potential to reduce several hundred average trips a week on Route 1 during the summer.
The state’s Architectural Accessibility Board approved the project design in November.
Commissioner Toni Sharp said she wanted to have a conversation with city department heads about future use and maintenance of the dock. “If we don’t have that conversation, and then we run into unintended consequences, there would be very quick criticism,” said Sharp.
Commissioner Pat Coluzzi, who is also a member of the canal improvement association, said City Manager Sharon Lynn and Public Works Director Kevin Williams have been involved with the discussion, but, she said, there will be more as the project gets moving.
Mayor Paul Kuhns said the project is new, because it’s on the water, but he said he sees it as an extension of Grove Park. There’s always going to be maintenance, but not significantly more than already involved with the park, he said.
Spong said he is more than willing to have as many public discussions as needed.