The Delaware Beach Access Coalition Has A New Tactic

The DBAC has a new tactic, they want to help you the general public, not really.

It’s early this morning and the truck is packed for a morning of fishing. Instead of heading out to surf fish, which I haven’t done in months, I’m going to lay out some information that everyone needs to know.

For years the Delaware Beach Access Coalition (DBAC) have been using various tactics to restrict our beach access. What is their end goal? No traffic on the beach that backs up to their community, despite it being a State Park beach, a.k.a. Public Land.

In my profession when I offer proposals for equipment upgrades, I give 3 options: 1) The most expensive unrealistic gold-plated option, 2) The reasonable, sensible option that fits the bill and the one that I actually want 3) The least desirable option, often the cheapest and sometimes leads to undesirable consequences.

These are the tactics that the DBAC have been using as well. The first time they pitched option #1, the second time they pitched option #3, and now they are finally offering up option #2 which is what they wanted all along. Why use this method? It shows that you are “reasonable” and willing to negotiate.

Primary goal: Keep non-community residents off their dune access and away from the beach. Wear people down by making beach driving so cumbersome that no one drives on to Fenwick Island State Park. See the original map below.

beach access coalition, fenwick island state park, delaware surf fishing
(2017) 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.

WGMD had a call the other day with Charles Turnbaugh. As the call was taking place my phone started blowing up with folks telling me to tune in and call in. It’s a shame really because it quickly ruined my morning. My coffee tasted bitter, and the dog ran off into the woods.

I decided to tune into the show and listen to the “new ideas”. As he began his diatribe, the callers started up spewing their hatefulness towards him. Sometimes it’s better to remember that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. As this is exactly the response that the DBAC wants from the public. They want anger and they got exactly what they went fishing for. Unfortunately, in this case, this is America, we have the glorious freedom to say whatever we want, the DBAC included. However, while most calls were just salty, there were a few callers that had very good points.

Let’s look at the facts:

These beaches that the DBAC is trying to restrict access to are known as multi-Use beaches, which means that you can swim, walk on, surf, boogie board, skim board, sit and drink beer, and drive on to fish. This applies to everyone in the state, tourists and residents alike. In order to drive on we pay at least $100/year for that privilege, the same way the residents of the DBAC communities pay $70/year per house for their renters to use the walk-on dune crossing.
Have you noticed that the pressure for this change has ramped up recently? Guess what changed: Their annual cost increase for the walk-on through the dunes is what caused this. While it may seem like a good will effort, it’s really just about money. We are not entitled to a surf tag as many of you found out this year. Even if you possess one it can be taken from you by the authorities. That makes this access a privilege. Privileges can be taken away.
We will talk about public access to these crossovers next, because the DBAC has an answer for that as would be expected. The DBAC has a contract with DNREC and the state to allow this access for a set period of time.

Even with contractual public access written into their agreement, the public cannot easily access this area, except by surf fishing vehicles. This effectively gave them, DBAC, their own private beach.


Playing Politics

I was in a meeting once and asked DNREC, BAC, state representatives, and senators in the meeting:

“What if you just took away the crossovers. Then everyone has to either drive down to the bath house parking lot or get a tag and learn to fake fish? Wouldn’t that be fairer giving everyone equal access?

“Oh, we can’t do that, these have been here for years”, was the response of one senator.

Pulling out my driver’s license I asked, “Do you see this? If I break the law, you can take the privilege of driving away from me at any time. Isn’t this the same thing, a privilege I pay for”?
All the public wants are to be treated fairly. Sometimes it helps to be a little abrasive at public meetings to help get a point across.

At the end of the day, the Delaware Beach Access Coalition (DBAC) is now trying to appear they are appealing to the general public’s “right” to beach access as long as it’s not in their front yard. However, they are correct about one thing, we do need more walk on accesses for tourists in our parks by creating more parking. There is plenty of walk on room just not enough places to put more vehicles.

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Economic Impact – The next chapter

The latest tactic that DBAC is using to appeal to the general public is claiming lost tourism will affect the economy. This is interesting: If they lose their semi-secluded beach, due to surf fishing vehicles, which they advertise their community as having, no one will rent their houses. With no renters there will be some form of economic impact. This has not been proven and is purely speculation. Think about this: tourism is increasing year over by roughly 10% so how them losing renters would impact this growth is unknown.

Calling for parks to create larger parking areas and walk-on access for beach goers. The areas would be nowhere near their communities. Interesting, eh? The rumor mill has been plentiful stating that 200 yards of the beach on the south end of Delaware Seashore State Park (DSSP), which would be the walk-on access point near 3R’s beach all the way to the poles at the park border. Also included would be a larger parking lot to accommodate that the other folks walking on, as parking on Route 1 is not allowed.

While I do agree that DSSP could use more parking spaces, we must remember that the beach is a limited resource that we all must learn to share.


One way to do that, not mentioned by Charles, would be parking areas at the three drive on crossovers in Fenwick Island State Park. Adding facilities as well for these beach visitors. There are issues with protected dunes and wildlife in some of these areas, right next to these housing communities. The three Fenwick Island crossing (York, Middle, and South) could use small parking areas similar to Conquest and Key Box in Delaware Seashore State Park. Presently these are just crossover accesses, a little sand road onto the beach off the highway. So, I agree with the fact that that these drive on accesses could use more parking. We also need more access for walk on surf fishing anglers and additional areas for beach users to park. That is a problem for DNREC to deal with and I understand they are looking into this.

 There are communities across the street from some of these DBAC communities that use the accesses as well. That is their deflection answer whenever we bring up the public access and parking, however we can’t access these communities, unless we walk in. “Those people across the street can walk in any time so the public does have access.

But do we really?

Not unless we, the public, get dropped off and walk in. Despite the public being able to access these contracted crossover areas. Another issue is there aren’t facilities. I don’t know a single family that is going to access this area from the bathhouse parking area and walk two miles to sit on a beach. When they have to go to the bathroom the only facility is so far away, Junior isn’t going to make it. Perhaps DNREC should put some port-a-johns near these crossover areas within the Delaware Beach Access Coalition communities, since the public has contractually obligated access.


The other issue would be emergency vehicle access. They can get into the community easy enough since they have the gate codes, but how do you tell the EMT people where you are?

By not allowing parking in their communities and asking for zero trucks in front of their houses, the DBAC is essentially creating a private beach area, within a Delaware State Park. Land owned by all us, the citizens of the State of Delaware.

Moment of Clarity
A few years ago, I was driving out to The Point and had an epiphany. There is walk on access at all state parks for the drive on beaches. People gather in these areas in front of the accesses because there are facilities close by and it’s an easy walk back to the car. The surf fishing trucks leave them the space to hang out and enjoy the beach. We share the beach as we always have. Some walk on to surf fish others just to hang out and enjoy the beach.
So, I was curious. If the trucks are such a problem outside the DBAC communities, what do people actually think? The same situation being complained about in Fenwick is occurring here as well.

I jumped out of my truck and started walking along the beach and spoke to a lot of people. The conversations were all different but led to the same conclusion: No one cared about the trucks at all. In fact, some enjoyed the “show”.

Many of the conversations went as follows:
Excuse me, my name is Rich King, and I am doing a survey of sorts.”
“Hey you’re that guy who fishes on the internet, we follow you on Facebook”
“I was wondering, do all these trucks parked on each side of you all bother you?”
“Oh heck no son, we love to sit out here eat our subs, watch the waves, maybe drink a beer, and watch you all not catch anything all day”
“Thank you sir have a great day, that is all I needed to hear and you are correct, surf fishing can be tough in the summer”.

The next day was Sunday. I went to every walk on access in every park at the drive on beaches and talked to people. Nearly every single person I talked to could’ve cared less about the trucks. Some even thanked me for the fact when we do drive by, we look out for their kids playing. Giving folks/kids the time to move. Most of the time we either stop and wait or take a different line through the sand. Yes, there are the folks that speed. That is one issue among a multitude of others that parks need to deal with. We always look out for our fellow beach users, and we always will.

Now we are looking out for OUR beach, EVERYONE’S beach. We love our beaches, and we won’t allow anyone to tell us we can’t access them, ever. The beaches are a shared and limited resource, owned by the citizens of the State of Delaware. Shared being the key word here. There really are only two solid solutions to all these problems we will cover that soon. Some will not like it, but you all have to learn to share a limited resource and protect it first, or else we may lose it altogether.

Our beach can’t speak for herself, but if she could say … Use me all you want, just be gentle, and take care of me always.

Yes Ma’am, we shall and do.

Fish On and On,
Rich King

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