Letters to the Editor -- November 25, 2011

Reader offers opinion on canal trail

The Town of Bethany Beach recently mailed a questionnaire to all property owners regarding the proposed Assawoman Canal Trail. Since I do not have the luxury of mass-mailing my fellow owners, I’m resorting to this forum to share my concerns regarding the short summary of the trail plan included with the questionnaire. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a property owner in the Bethany West community, which borders the Assawoman Canal.

The primary concern voiced at all public hearings for the proposed trail has been security for the homes and communities along the trail, particularly in the off-season months when many homes are unoccupied.

The mailing from the town mentions the possibility of hiring a “natural resources ranger” during the summer months but makes no mention of coverage during the non-summer months. No one from the Town or the State has addressed the issue of law-enforcement responsibility on the trail, other than Bob Ehemann, project manager for DNREC, stating at the recent Millville hearing that his agency would not provide regular coverage.

Those of us with homes on or near the trail, as well as potential trail users, need to know who to call for problems needing immediate response. Will the Bethany Beach Police Department have jurisdiction on the state property? Will the state have an emergency number to call 24/7? These answers have not been forthcoming and are necessary to provide meaningful feedback to town council’s request for opinions regarding the trail.

Regarding construction costs for the trail, the Town’s mailing states that “the exact fiscal commitment required by the Town is unknown at this time.” Again, it’s impossible for property owners to provide meaningful feedback without being provided with details of the plan.

Given the apparent lack of specific details available at this time, the town council should choose to table any vote to endorse the state’s plan for a canal trail. An article two weeks ago in the Coastal Point reported that feedback received by the town to that point was 30-1 against construction of the trail. This mailing from the Town, requesting feedback without providing necessary details, gives the appearance of pro-trail council members fishing for positive feedback in order to publicly justify their votes.

Pat Hanning
Media, Pa., and Bethany Beach

Booth, Wilson applaud DelDOT’s efforts

Rep. Dave Wilson joins me in publicly thanking the Delaware Department of Transportation and the Delaware State Police for their excellent planning efforts relating to the World Punkin’ Chunkin’ 2011 event.

Due to the many problems experienced during the 2010 event that included traffic flow and congestion, DelDOT and DSP, along with others, met over the course of the year with the organizers of the Punkin’ Chunkin’ annual event. The result of these meetings created a detailed and much improved plan that proved to be ready to handle the 120,000 people that attended this year’s festivities. Thankfully, Rep. Wilson and I did not receive any complaints this year.

Both of us are positive there can always be additional improvements made to this event. The efforts of the organizers of Punkin’ Chunkin’, DelDOT and the DSP, along with other supporters should be recognized as successful. We are pleased to commend everyone associated with this event for keeping the growing interest in this contest alive and viable in Sussex County.

Rep. Wilson and I are always interested in hearing any constructive suggests and recommendations as to how to eliminate problems associated with the number of attendees and vehicles. Many of the individuals living in the area of the event are affected by this effort, and their comments and situation, as well, is of importance in this planning.

It is amazing how much attention this annual event is given each year and continues to be very successful even in difficult economic times. This remarkable interest is due entirely to the enthusiasm and motivation of the promoters and the members of the steering committee. Punkin’ Chunkin’ also makes it a priority to give back to the community the profits in terms of scholarships and grants. This event makes a strong difference in Sussex County and is not an event that we want to lose.

In closing, Rep. Wilson and I extend best wishes to Dan Fair, a spotter of the event. Dan was injured this year when his ATV turned over and, despite suffering extensive injuries, is recovering. Dan has been a spotter for 13 years and hopes his accident does not affect the event in a negative manner.

Dan, we hope you get better soon and look forward to seeing you at work as a spotter next year. It is dedicated and committed citizens, like Dan that make this event a true success.

State Sen. Joe Booth