Save Your Beach Access On Delaware State Park Beaches

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Proposed areas to be restricted against surf fishing vehicles in Fenwick Island State Park. We would not even be allowed to drive across these areas to access the areas in between. The black areas even though not restricted to vehicles would be unaccessable due to not being allowed to drive across the restricted area. Essentially this becomes a private beach within Fenwick Island State Park.

You might know this, but for the most part not many people do or ever hear about it. For the past two years a small group of wealthy people that are landlords and homeowners, mostly landlords, petition the state parks to stop surf fishing vehicles from parking in front of their rental properties in Fenwick Island State park and 3Rs beach in Delaware Seashore State Park. They express concerns over safety, the smell of smog (exhaust) and bait. By safety they are referring to people getting hooked by fishing gear, and the possibility of being hit by a vehicle, something that has never happened on a drive on beach. As far as the fishing gear, you can find gear washed up on any beach in the United States and it is not all from surf anglers. So that is also a bit of a moot point, I think there were less than a dozen instances last year alone.

This year is different; these folks have not only hired a lawyer, but a lobbyist to put pressure on the State of Delaware, the Governor, and State Parks.  A group called the Beach Access Coalition, not located or from the state of Delaware, is also petitioning parks about restricting surf fishing vehicles.  This issue effects everyone, not just surf anglers, but local and tourist walk on beach users as well. Over the past twenty years these communities that were built in front of a state park beach were granted access to walk across the protected dunes with their own access points. They were charged only a two hundred dollar administrative fee a year for these accesses. The fact that some of these units rent for over four hundred and fifty dollars a day doesn’t seem to play into their issue with the amount parks wants to charge for these access points. Which by the way are accessible by the general public but are in gated communities that lack public parking, so in reality they are not accessible by the public, though they are supposed to be, in other words they are private accesses.

fenwick island state park, save our beach access, delaware, sussex county
Sign put up by Sea Villa HOA residents illegally in Fenwick Island state park near middle crossing. Telling surf anglers to not park on “their” beach. Parks removed the sign once it was reported.

This year parks decided to address this fee issue and charge more for these access points, which by the way is something they are not required to allow these communities. In reality they could be denied these accesses, by denying a renewed agreement or lease, and told to drive to the park beach accesses like everyone else who utilizes these public beaches. After all these are protected dunes and it is a state park they built their house behind not a private beach. Parks decided this year to charge seventy dollars a year per unit in a community. That works out to about a dollar a day per unit during the summer season, and for some communities could total over four thousand dollars and about sixteen thousand dollars total for all the communities involved. This money would be used by parks to hire seasonal staff like park patrol officers/naturalists and add additional signage letting the people who rent these properties know they are using a public beach. Of course the owners of these properties are not too happy about these new charges, and that is what probably promoted a lawyer and lobbyist. Despite the fact the average rental charge can go up to over four hundred and fifty dollars per day per unit, not a week per day.

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Description of the park beach advertised for a rental property. No mention that it is a surf fishing beach. It almost implies it is a private beach.

Why is this an issue for all of you as users of these public state park beaches? These communities are asking that no surf fishing vehicles be allowed within a hundred yards on each side of their walk on accesses from Memorial day weekend to Labor day weekend. Now that might not seem like an unreasonable request until you start looking at the map. Essentially this would cut the drive on beaches into three sections. You would not be allowed to drive from one end of the park to the other end. You would have to go out onto route 1 to access another section of the drive on beach. Also since these areas would be inaccessible to walk on beach users due to the fact they are so far away from any walk on beach parking lot, these folks would essentially have their own private beach within a public Delaware state park, that we all pay to access. I have included the maps so you can see the areas they are referring too with an explanation in the captions.

fenwick island, restricted beach access map, delaware, sussex county, save our beach access,
Close up of a proposed restricted access section. The pink sections are restricted to vehicles. The yellow section vehicles are allowed access. The black section would not be restricted to vehicles but vehicles would not be able to drive to that area Memorial day weekend to Labor day weekend.
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Ultimately this decision belongs to the Director of Delaware State Parks, Ray Bivens. He has the full support of myself, the Delaware Mobile Surf Fishing Club, and several state representatives to NOT allow this limited access for surf fishing vehicles to happen. The problems we all see are more communities in the future trying to do this and the fact that essentially this creates a private beach area within a public state park. One of the reasons this has also become a problem is the way these rental properties are being marketed to the public. Nowhere in the description of this rental property are the customers told they are using a Delaware State Park beach, nor a surf fishing vehicle access beach. In fact it is marketed as a lovely uncrowded pristine beach. This has caused some friction between beachgoers and surf anglers, and not the fault of these folks renting the condo. The fact they assume they have a private beach is a big problem that the landlords need to correct.

sussex county, fenwick island, delaware, restricted beach access map,
Legend for proposed restricted access in Fenwick Island State Park

If you would like to show your support to not allow this to happen you can send your correspondence to:


And email or call your local State Senator or Representative and let them know that you surf fish and you vote. Encourage them to strongly support keeping our state park multi-use beaches for the public.

Fish On!

Rich King

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Proposed crossover areas and distances.

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