Using public funds, the Town of Bethany Beach acquired the Walcek Tract, located within the borders of the town between 2nd Street and Central Avenue. The cost was reported to be $1.4 million. After incurring such an expense, it is incumbent upon the Town to use this property for some public purpose.
It has been proposed to create a walkway between 2nd Street and Central Avenue, which would provide a nonvehicular alternative to the Route 26 corridor. This would be an entirely appropriate and advisable use for this property. It would remove pedestrian traffic from Route 26, thereby decreasing the amount of intermixing of vehicles and pedestrians. Also, the walkway would be shaded for pedestrians, whereas the Route 26 corridor is not.
Opposition to this proposal has been unconvincing. None of the opposition to the proposal has suggested an alternative public use for this property. The purported environmental concerns are clearly unsubstantial. The proposal would have minimal environmental impact as demonstrated by the numerous walkways which exist in environmentally sensitive areas in and around Bethany Beach, including the walkway at the Nature Center and pathways located in the areas’ state parks.
There should be no question as to whether there is any prohibition to constructing this walkway on the acquired lands because, if there were any prohibition on its development, then Bethany Beach should not have acquired the property initially, since such acquisition would have been unnecessary and a misuse of the public’s funds.
If those who oppose this development are sincere in their opposition, an alternative may exist. The Town could offer to sell the property to those opposed to the walkway at the price the Town paid, with the restriction that, in perpetuity, the land will not be developed. Otherwise, the Town is under an obligation to put this property to some public use. Its current posture of doing nothing with the property is not acceptable.