With the arrival of another summer season in the area’s resort towns also come a number of changes, both from the winter months and from how visitors to the area may remember things being last summer.
Perhaps the most notable changes this Memorial Day weekend and beyond in Bethany Beach include the town’s Streetscape project — the first phase of which was scheduled to be completed this week.
The entire project covers the three-block stretch of Garfield Parkway that extends from the boardwalk past Pennsylvania Avenue and Atlantic Avenue to Route 1, with the biggest changes in the 100 block between Pennsylvania and Atlantic. DelDOT contractor A-Del Construction Company is widening sidewalks, adding pedestrian crossings, upgrading curb ramps, installing lighting, landscaping and improving signage for bicycle lanes.
South-side improvements are scheduled to begin after Labor Day and are expected to be finished by the end of 2013.
When the project is complete, Garfield Parkway’s central 100 block will have parallel parking along the median, with angled head-in parking along the storefront sides of the street, right next to the sidewalk. With the parking on the outside, the town will double the number of spaces where drivers and passengers can get out right at the sidewalk, which is believed to pose less of a safety concern than the current arrangement.
Parallel parking would be moved from curbside to the north side only, off a 4-foot-wide raised center median, which is designed to allow drivers to make their way more safely to the town’s parking paystations.
Those using the parallel parking will have to parallel park on their left, rather than the traditional right side. In the end, the roadway will be 101 feet wide, from curb to curb, with an additional 7 feet or more to use to widen the sidewalks.
In addition, paystations are now up and running, albeit a week later than normal, thanks to delays to the Streetscape project’s first phase caused by weather and the belated discovery that some water pipes were not where they had been thought to be.
Those who haven’t parked in downtown Bethany in a year or more will need to remember to pay for their parking, as the traditional coin-operated meters have largely been removed in favor of centralized paystations, which dispense tickets to be displayed on vehicle dashboards.
Those parking are being advised by signage to park, go to the nearest paystation and purchase a ticket (at $1.50 per hour, with quarters or a credit card — no paper money, which was cited as likely to jam up such machines and cause more headaches than it solved). They should then return to their vehicle and place their ticket on the dashboard, in plain sight, so that parking enforcement can monitor compliance.
Of additional note is that nearly all of the spaces in the Garfield Parkway zone have a two-hour time limit — a limit that existed in the days of individual parking meters and one that remains with the paystation system.
Also, this summer, six 30-minute parking spaces are being put into place in that downtown area, with coin-fed meters for use by motorists using the short-term spaces. Officials said they hoped the shorter meter period would offer spots for people to park when they only needed to stop downtown briefly, such as to pick up a newspaper or a cup of coffee.
A little farther down Route 1, in South Bethany, Mayor Kathy Jankowski is gearing up for her last “Meet the Mayor” event in a series of three. She said the previous two have been well-attended, as it gave property owners a more informal way to express concerns and ideas and a chance to meet fellow property owners. The third one will be held Saturday, May 25, from 8 to 10 a.m. at town hall.
In addition, the Town has also formed a Sea Level Rise Committee and plans to now have wind and tide information posted on their Web site, after the effects of Superstorm Sandy had more people interested in that kind of information being more readily available, said Jankowski.
She also emphasized that they want people to have a safe and enjoyable time while in South Bethany.
On the southbethany.org Web site, people can get acquainted with traffic and pedestrian laws so their time in town can be fun and free from injury.
Reminders include those to cross Route 1 at the traffic light intersections at Evergreen, Layton and York Roads, press the walk signal button and wait for the go-ahead walk signal. When crossing at a marked crosswalk on Route 1, wait until it is clear to cross. Vehicles have the right-of-way along Route 1 — they only must yield to pedestrians if the pedestrian is already in the crosswalk.
Other tips include for pedestrians not to wave for drivers to stop, to make eye contact with drivers when trying to cross Route 1, continuing to watch traffic the entire time they are crossing, holding hands of children, and not assuming that because one driver stopped that the others will follow suit — risking being struck by a car passing the stopped vehicle because it obscures the pedestrian.
In other areas around town, pedestrians are encouraged to walk on sidewalks and, if none are available, to walk facing traffic, as far to the left as possible. And bicyclists must, under state law, ride with traffic and as far to the right as possible. They must comply with all laws that apply to motor vehicles. And, those younger than 18 are required to wear helmets when riding a bike.
In addition, the most common problems with parking in town include parking without a valid permit or improperly displaying parking stickers. Stickers must be displayed on the back of the rearview mirror, and hanging permits must be hung from the rearview mirror. Also, motorists should park off the roadway, with the flow of traffic.
“We are looking forward to everybody being in town,” said Jankowski. “It should be a good season!”
Big changes are to be found in Fenwick Island, too, as they have followed in the footsteps on Bethany Beach and have banned smoking on the beach and in their parks. Unlike Bethany, however, Fenwick Island does not have any designated smoking areas on the beach. Instead, smokers are asked to extinguish smoking materials at receptacles located west of the dune.
The change is being facilitated by a grant of nearly $10,000 from the American Lung Association, which helped fund the purchase of 15 no-smoking signs that were set to be in place as of March 1, when the smoking ban took effect.
Town officials said this winter that an educational/light-enforcement phase of the ban was to begin as of March 1. Educational brochures and keychains designed to help get the message out to those younger than 18 were to be ordered, along with the smoking receptacles to be placed at the entrances to the beach and parks, so that smokers can properly dispose of their cigarettes before entering the no-smoking zones.
According to Town Manager Merritt Burke, the education and preparation phases were to be wrapped up by Memorial Day, in time for full enforcement. The ban on smoking in town parks and on town beaches includes “the burning of a cigarette, cigar, pipe or other matter or substance that contains tobacco.” There is a fine of $100 for each violation.
Along with the no-smoking signs and receptacles at the entrances to the no-smoking areas, visitors this summer will also see new signage on the town’s lifeguard stands. The Lifeguard Sponsorship Program offers local business owners the opportunity to advertise on lifeguard stands for the 2013 summer season.
“The program is an innovative approach to supporting the Fenwick Island Beach Patrol and promoting area businesses,” officials said.
Fenwick Island is also offering a set of beach concessions for the 2013 summer season. Under DNREC approval, food and beverage concessions are being offered only for the beach area from the state line to the town limits. A concession for beach services, such as rental of umbrellas and chairs is also on offer. Within town limits, the concessions will initially be limited to beach services, with potential to expand to include food and beverages in the future.
In Fenwick Island, parking permits are required May 15 through Sept. 15. Passes for visitors are available for purchase at the Public Safety Building seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.. For more information, visit http://fenwickisland.org or call (302) 539-3011.