Gov. Jack Markell and DNREC Secretary David Small were joined by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Acting Assistant Director Paul Rauch, Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, other legislators and members of the community on May 25 to mark the reopening of the newly-repaired 1,300-foot Cape Henlopen State Park Fishing Pier.
The governor was also joined by students from Millsboro Middle School to celebrate the pier’s reopening by casting the first fishing lines of the season from the pier.
“The Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier is Delaware’s most popular recreational fishing structure, generating more than $700,000 in revenue per year for our economy,” Markell said. “Our anglers, bird watchers and many other nature lovers can be outside, relax and enjoy nature. And, the pier also helps further another goal for our state — to get children outside for healthy fun, and as a way to help develop their appreciation of the environment.”
The vintage World War II landmark has been restored for the use of anglers, bird watchers and leisure visitors. The 149 pilings that support the structure have been repaired or replaced and extensive decking repairs completed.
In addition to fishing and other recreational uses, the pier creates habitat for fish and other marine life. The pier has served as a platform for events and special promotions, and its bait-and-tackle concessionaire is a convenience for visitors and generates income for the park.
“We are pleased that the fishing pier, the most used in the state, is reopening in time for the Memorial Day holiday,” said DNREC Secretary Small. “Our thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its contribution of more than $350,000, and our local legislators who helped bring this very popular fishing pier back to life.”
“The Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier project is a great example of the federal Wildlife & Sport Fish Restoration program at work,” said Paul Rauch, acting assistant director of the Division of Wildlife & Sport Fish Restoration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Anglers pay federal excise taxes on fishing equipment and motorboat fuel, and then directly benefit as those funds are reinvested to improve access to fishing.
“The project demonstrates the success of this partnership among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control, fishing manufacturers, and sportsmen and -women.”
The cost for repairs, decking, piles and engineering was funded by the State and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, along with contributions from state Reps. Schwartzkopf, Timothy Dukes and Steve Smyk, and state Sen. Ernesto Lopez, through their Community Transportation Fund allotments.
“Thousands upon thousands of residents and visitors use the Cape Henlopen fishing pier every year to fish, birdwatch or just enjoy nature,” said Schwartzkopf, whose district includes Cape Henlopen State Park. “This pier is as much a part of our community and history as any other part of the park, and I’m happy to see it restored and reopened to the public. The pier will continue to serve as a resource for all who visit the park.”
The all-wooden pier was built during World War II by the U.S. Army as a mining wharf and became state property when Cape Henlopen State Park was established in 1964. Since 2007, several rehabilitative efforts have been undertaken on the pilings beneath the pier.
The T-head portion of the pier was demolished in 2012 after its deteriorated condition was thought to pose a threat to safety and navigation by DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation, which has monitored the condition of the pier.
“These latest repairs to the pier were vital to the continued use of this popular facility, and I hope we can continue to support similar investments in our aging infrastructure throughout our state parks,” said Ray Bivens, DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation Director. “The 6.1 million people who visit our state parks annually come because they appreciate not only the variety of our amenities and the natural beauty, but also our well managed and maintained facilities.”
“The Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier improves access to fishing and is a unique asset for anglers,” said Clark Evans with the Delaware Council on Recreational Fishing Funding. “Not only is the pier an ideal place to teach children how to fish, but it also accommodates older, less mobile anglers and those with physical disabilities.”
“I am thrilled that the Cape Henlopen Pier is back, and bringing with it visitors from near and far to enjoy Delaware’s beautiful coast,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. “Thanks to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for the federal funding and to the various folks in the state who provided the funds to make this happen.”
“It’s wonderful news that the scenic and functional pier will be back open for business in time for the beach season,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Coons. “I applaud Gov. Markell and Secretary Small for their continued investments in our state parks, and I thank the many hands who helped reconstruct the pier for the thousands of guests who flock to Cape Henlopen State Park throughout the year.”
“Cape Henlopen State Park is one of the great treasures in our state,” said U.S. Rep. John Carney. “There are many areas that Delawareans and tourists love to visit, and the fishing pier is near the top of the list. The pier attracts families who like to fish, bird watchers and many others who just enjoy being in nature.
“I appreciate the support and hard work of DNREC, state and local officials, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which provided funding for the project. Reopening the pier is a great way to kick off the summer, and I’m sure this will be a busy spot all season long.”
New camping cabins open at campground
In addition to the reopening of the pier, parks officials also unveiled six new camping cabins at the Cape Henlopen State Park campground. That is in addition to six existing cabins, which have proven to be a popular success with parks visitors, officials noted.
The newly-dubbed “Cabin Village” is located next to the tent camping area in the park. The roadway that previously passed in front of the original six cabins has been converted into a cul-de-sac, with the new cabins encircling the roadway.
Delaware State Parks made the decision to add additional camping cabins following the success of the original six cabins during the peak of last year’s season.
“With a 97 percent occupancy rate and more than 1,500 people enjoying the cabins last year, we saw a need to give more visitors the opportunity to enjoy what Cape Henlopen has to offer,” said Cape Henlopen State Park Manager Paul Faircloth. “According to last year’s numbers and the projected numbers for 2016, these cabins will allow us to host around 2,000 people throughout the peak season.”
Each new cabin is painted a different color, and several cabins feature dormers designed to enhance the interior space. All of the cabins are heated and air conditioned, but do not contain individual restrooms or kitchens. A bathhouse is located next to the Cabin Village, however, and each cabin has a picnic table and fire ring. The 476-square-foot cabins also feature screened porches.
More campground improvements are coming next fall. The campground will close on Sept. 12 for the installation of electric service, improvements to the roadway and drainage systems, and construction of a camp store and laundry facility. Construction is expected to end in May 2017. The reopening of reservations for the park’s 2017 season will be announced in an e-newsletter later this summer.
At the close of the event, Markell presented a proclamation designating June 5 as “Delaware State Parks Day,” to mark the Division’s 65th anniversary. On June 5, the public can visit state parks free of charge. The proclamation also recognizes the Division’s receipt of this year’s National Gold Medal Award for excellence in park and recreation management.