Sally Boswell is a member of the Preserve Our Park Coalition
On Sept. 21, Gov. John Carney signed Senate Bill 6 into law, updating and strengthening protections for Cape Henlopen State Park. The bill has been closely watched since June 30, when the General Assembly passed the bipartisan bill without a single negative vote in either the Senate or the House of Representatives.
“For the thousand people who came to Cape Henlopen High School on a cold night in early December (2022) to protest (the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s) plan to build a bar/restaurant on a dune at Cape Henlopen, passage of SB 6 is a sigh of relief. It updates and strengthens protections against commercial development at Cape Henlopen State Park,” said Christine Besche, president of the Preserve Our Park Coalition.
Most important, the law states that DNREC “may not develop hospitality amenities such as a restaurant, hotel, hostelry, or entertainment center.” And there is an enforcement mechanism: “The Court of Chancery has original jurisdiction over disputes regarding the Warner Grant Trust Lands. With prior consultation with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Attorney General, a private right of action is retained for any resident of Sussex County, who are the original beneficiaries of the Trust.”
The new law makes the intent of the General Assembly crystal clear: “The first priority and concern of all those holding the Warner Grant Trust Lands in trust must be, now and in perpetuity, the preservation and protection of the natural and historical resources encompassed by the Warner Grant Trust Lands, which are a most precious resource of this State and its citizens.”
Cape Henlopen State Park is a natural wonder Delawareans should preserve even as they make use of it. In the crush of rapid growth, Sussex County has fewer and fewer outdoor places of refuge. Making SB 6 into law makes it more likely that future generations will be able to enjoy this rare place whose roots date back to 1682.
The Preserve Our Park Coalition is grateful for the leadership of Sen. Russ Huxtable, D-Lewes, in sponsoring this bill, which reaffirms the General Assembly’s commitment to a 350-year-old obligation known as the “Warner Grant,” to protect the lands encompassed by Cape Henlopen State Park today and for future generations of Delawareans.
This legislation is the direct outgrowth of a public meeting held by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control at Cape Henlopen High School on Dec. 5, 2022. Nearly 1,000 citizens came to hear DNREC’s plans for Cape Henlopen State Park, including their proposal to build a bar/restaurant on the dune next to the Hawk Watch in the park.
Public comments at the meeting overwhelmingly rejected the bar/restaurant’s construction. At the end of the meeting, Division of Parks and Recreation director Ray Bivens announced that the bar/restaurant plan was “paused.” SB 6 now terminates it.
Preserve Our Park will continue its work to protect and preserve Cape Henlopen State Park for its unparalleled natural beauty, outdoor recreation, environmental education and historic significance. For more information, visit preserveourpark.org.
Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org.