BREAKING NEWS: Assawoman Canal dock owners upset by demolition

For the last few weeks, residents living along the Assawoman Canal have watched as their decades-old docks were removed piece by piece and the debris loaded onto a barge for disposal. The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) has removed approximately 10 docks located south of the Central Avenue canal crossing in Ocean View.

According to DNREC Parks and Recreation Director Charles Salkin, the structures were built on public park land that was never private property. Now that re-dredging of the canal has been completed, a final step was the removal of the docks.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as the original owner of the land, had permitted residents to build private docks and structures along the canal, but the canal’s ownership was transferred to the DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation some 20 years ago.

The division began phasing out structures on the Assawoman Canal, by removing decrepit docks and by not renewing private leases.

In letters sent to the canal-side property owners on April 19, 2009, and Feb 14, 2011, the Division said it would “be taking a much more aggressive posture to monitor and enforce encroachment and other property violations on state property.”

Workers have now removed entire docks, as well as pilings and stairways leading down to the water.

Ocean View resident Tom Fletcher said demolition began on his dock on Wednesday, Feb. 23. In an effort to draw attention to the demolitions and in hopes of putting a stop to them, Fletcher and his neighbors began contacting government officials, DNREC and the media. The demolition ceased on briefly on Feb. 24 but began again that afternoon.

Now, Fletcher’s 35-year-old structure will be the last dock removed this season – and the remaining dock owners hope it will be the final one removed at all.

The dock removal project will be suspended until a future meeting occurs between DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara, Parks and Recreation staff and Collins Park representatives.

Collins Park is located at the canal’s northern side, and property owners in the community have demanded a meeting with DNREC to discuss keeping its public access docks.

For more on Assawoman Canal dock removals, pick up the March 4 issue of the Coastal Point or visit the Web site at after March 3.