Surfriders share concerns about state park restaurant

October 14, 2022

The Surfrider Foundation Delaware Chapter is concerned about the proposed restaurant in Cape Henlopen State Park. We support the park in making enhancements on its grounds to improve the overall visitor experience. We also request that these improvements be made responsibly and with additional public input opportunities.

La Vida Hospitality’s plan to build a restaurant was not well publicized, and it surprised many in the local community. In addition, there was very little time for public comment on the proposal. As the project planning and design phase continues, we ask La Vida and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to make plans available to the public for regular review and comment. DNREC should publicize opportunities to comment through various media outlets that cover the entire state. CHSP is a state resource that residents of the whole state visit and fund.

The plan must consider protecting the shore ecosystem and beach access to the public. The proposed location of the restaurant is on a dune meant to protect against storms and rising sea levels. The dunes are sensitive beach areas and essential to migratory birds and mammals. We ask that the restaurant is in an area that meets dune setback regulations per the Beach Preservation Act. If the setback has not been studied in the last 10 years, a new study should be done before construction, as rising sea levels will make older studies less relevant.

Restaurants are a significant source of trash and single-use plastic waste that we find during our beach cleanups.

We request that La Vida meet the guidelines of our Ocean Friendly Restaurants Program. This program has seven mandatory criteria and allows a restaurant to select at least three additional criteria. By meeting these requirements, the restaurant will minimize the trash that reaches the beach.

In addition, access to CHSP during the summer is a concern. The park already fills in a matter of hours on summer weekends. Adding a restaurant that will bring more visitors is potentially problematic. Visitors have been negatively impacted by wait times and potential denial of entry. The restaurant will have patrons with no interest in using CHSP’s natural amenities yet will take entry and parking spaces away from those that wish to do so. This problem is at the Big Chill Beach Club on the south side of Indian River Inlet. With no additional parking in the proposal, this will impact beach access for park visitors.

The Delaware Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation asks that La Vida and DNREC be more transparent about the plans for the restaurant moving forward. The chapter believes both groups need to consider public concerns more fully, as well as how to best protect the natural environment before moving forward on this project.

Brian Moran
Chair, Surfrider Foundation Delaware Chapter


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