Association presents plan for Lewes-Rehoboth water shuttle (Update May 11)

Water taxi planners rally support

Improvements at Rehoboth museum estimated at $849,000

By Ryan Mavity | Feb 29, 2012
Caoe Gazette
Photo by: Ryan Mavity Mark Carter, spokesman for the Lewes Rehoboth Canal Improvement Association, gives a presentation on the proposed water taxi between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.

Rehoboth Beach — A group working for a water taxi to link Lewes and Rehoboth Beach want to partner with the resort town to help secure financing for the project.

The Lewes Rehoboth Canal Improvement Association says a partnership would help secure state grants for the project.

During a Feb. 18 presentation of plans for the project, association spokesman Mark Carter said Lewes is already on board in its support of the taxi.

The plan's biggest hurdle is building a dock on the banks of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal at the Rehoboth Beach Museum large enough to host two 30-foot pontoon boats. The boats would ferry passengers between the museum and Lewes’ Canalfront Park. Estimated at a cost of $849,000, the project would also include a kayak launch and connect to the museum’s walkway. An outside vendor would operate the taxi itself.

Carter said the taxi would provide a welcome gateway for Rehoboth and would improve the banks of the canal, now made up of rocky riprap and overgrown with invasive vegetation in the summer.

“This project will create a park now, so when you drive across that bridge you say, ‘Oh wow, this is amazing. This is beautiful – I can’t wait to see the rest of this town,’” Carter said.

Tourism impacts

Scott Thomas, executive director of Southern Delaware Tourism, said, “How do we grow tourism, especially commerce in both downtowns, without putting more stress on the infrastructure we have now? It alleviates that, but it still allows people to move through the area, not only in a convenient way, but also in a desirable way. This will become an attraction within the area.”

Thomas said the taxi would help attract more visitors without adding more cars. He said he hopes eventually the taxi will also serve Dewey Beach and potentially Milton.

“I think this is a difference-maker. An attraction within an attraction,” Thomas said.

Official support lines up

Few attended the presentation but those who did supported the plan.

Richard Kirchhoff, owner/operator of the Canalside Inn Rehoboth, said, “I’m all for this. I think it’s tremendous.”

Citizens asked how the taxi would affect parking. Frank Cooper, a member of the Rehoboth planning commission, said, “Whatever it is that starts attracting people, you’re going to have to figure out some way to get people to it, other than a parking lot. It’s a great idea, I’m all for it, but you cannot ignore that.”

Sussex County Councilwoman Joan Deaver said, “I’m from Annapolis…I love it! That’s the economy of where I come from. I couldn’t think of a better thing. I do hope that people who live on the canal are OK with it.”

Henlopen Acres Commissioner Winnie Kee said people would be attracted not only by an easy way to move between the towns, but also by the natural beauty along the way.

“It’s a great thing to do,” she said. “Henlopen Acres is very much for it.”

Lewes Councilman Ted Becker said the taxi could offer an educational component.

“There is a great deal of wildlife to be observed. A whole educational component could add great value for a lot of people who take this thing,” he said.

After the meeting, Carter said suggestions from those in attendance were about the same issues the association is focusing on.

“The meeting was positive from our end. We would have loved to see more folks in attendance, but it was a beautiful Saturday, so we can't blame folks for enjoying the weather.”

The association plans more public meetings to raise awareness of the plan, Carter said.

Project could be operational by late summer 2013

By Ryan Mavity | Feb 10, 2012

Cape Gazette

Source: Submitted A rendering of what the proposed dock and water taxi at the Rehoboth Beach Museum would look like. Cost estimates of the dock are $849,000, which the Lewes Rehoboth Canal Improvement Association hopes to pay for with grants and donations.

Rehoboth Beach — All aboard!

That could be the call heard by Rehoboth Beach visitors if the city decides to partner up on a water taxi between Rehoboth and Lewes.

The $849,000 project was pitched by members of the Lewes Rehoboth Canal Improvement Association as a way improve the appearance, accessibility and functionality of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, reduce vehicular traffic and provide a way to link the two cities.

The proposal is for the taxi to go from Lewes’s Canalfront Park down the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal and ending at the Rehoboth Beach Museum. The taxi itself would be two 30-foot pontoon boats and the dock at the museum would also have a kayak/canoe launch.

The biggest part of the operation is the dock at the museum. From the water, a floating dock will be the on and off point for passengers, who can then walk up a Boardwalk promenade, which will be built with “switchbacks,” ramps similar to those found at a football stadium, that will allow for better handicapped access. The ramps will lead to the walkway around the canal side of the museum.

Landscape architect Matt Spong, a member of the project team, said the land the dock would go on is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers but the association has arranged a 20-year lease with the Corps that allows for improvements to be made to the canal bank.

The association hopes to pay for the project using grants from several sources, including the Department of Transportation’s Community Enhancement Fund, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Land and Water Conservation Trust Fund, as well as charitable donations and corporate contributions.

Of partnering with Rehoboth, Mark Carter, spokesman for the association said, “By partnering with the city of Rehoboth, the opportunity for sourcing funding becomes greater. Also, the project would create a park-like setting that serves as the western gateway to the city, and there would maintenance considerations that need to be addressed, so a public-private partnership is the logical route to go.”

Carter said Lewes is already on board with supporting the project. The town already has the infrastructure in place to support a water taxi, he said.

Operation of the taxi itself would be handled by a private entity. Carter said the $849,000 is to put the infrastructure in place to support the water taxi.

“The water taxi would be where the opportunity for job creation arises. The opportunity exists for an entrepreneur to or existing water taxi operator to provide this service. Several boat captains have already contacted the LRCIA and discussed this opportunity,” Carter said

At the Feb. 6 commissioners’ meeting, the association laid out a timeline of beginning construction in November, with the taxi becoming operation in the late summer 2013.

Carter said, “Ideally, the goal of the LRCIA is to see this project become a reality in approximately two years. The next steps are to move forward with grant applications, RFPs for final design, permitting, and construction documentation.”

Regarding the tourism side of the project, Scott Thomas of Southern Delaware Tourism said the water taxi would be a way to bolster existing tourism while providing less stress on local roadways.

“This really will be an attraction within an attraction,” he said.

The city commissioners seemed to be in favor of the project, but had questions on some of the details.

Mayor Sam Cooper said he thinks it is a great project, although he had reservations about the kayak launch creating a demand for parking that the city is unable to meet, as people would be parking their cars and bringing their kayaks down to the dock.

Commissioner Mark Hunker said the city should not get too hung up on minor details like the kayak launch, since the project could be built without it, and focus instead on supporting the taxi’s larger goal.

“The key here is, this is a great possibility and enhancement,” he said.

“I think this is an added attraction to the city, a welcoming presence,” Carter said. ‘I think right now is the time to make this a reality.”

The association will hold a public workshop on the water taxi at 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18, in the city commissioners’ room.

Editorial, Cape Gazette February 14


Trail, taxi will spur tourism, improve lifestyles

wo innovative projects moving for­ward in the Cape Region set an en­couraging tone for tourism and for residents. The proposed Gordons Pond Trail will complete a long-unfinished link between Rehoboth Beach and Lewes, creating a loop trail for hikers and cyclists, who will be able to travel between the two towns without retracing their steps.

The proposed trail will be designed to en­courage visitors to stay on the marked trail, protecting sensitive plants and habitat while al­so linking the two towns.

Upgrading the trail goes a long way toward encouraging people to leave their cars home and instead enjoy an invigorating walk or ride through the resplendent coastal area. It’s a proj­ect that encourages healthy exercise while also helping to reduce traffic and pollution during the summer, when heat aggravates air pollu­tion.

The second project is the water taxi to link the towns. Like the trail, a water taxi offers a charming way to get from one town to the oth­er without a car. Lewes, with its beautiful Canalfront Park, already has docking space; the park itself has preserved public access to the waterfront while at the same time becoming a destination for visitors and residents alike.

Similarly, plans in Rehoboth Beach promise not merely a stopping point for the water taxi, but also a beautifully terraced new park at the gateway to the city, a vast improvement over today’s brambly canal bank.

Like the trail, the water taxi will encourage visitors to travel between the two towns with­out increasing automobile traffic that becomes the bane of the Cape Region every summer.

Both of these projects demonstrate a vision for increasing tourism while encouraging healthier lifestyles and reducing traffic and pol­lution.

Plans to accomplish these twin goals should attract not only state and federal support but also the outstanding local support and fundraising success that enriches our region in so many ways.

And why stop there? Next stop for both trail and water taxi should be Milton.

Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor; Laura Ritter, news editor; and Jen Ellingsworth, arts and entertainment editor.