Cape Henlopen State Park

Under pressure, DNREC scraps Cape Henlopen restaurant plan

Charlie MegginsonCulture, Headlines

Cape Henlopen State Park

(Delaware State Parks)

Delaware’s famous Cape Henlopen State Park will not be the site of a new oceanfront restaurant, officials announced Monday.

The decision came after weeks of public outcry, including protests, op-eds in local papers and an organized campaign with yard signs that read, “No restaurant on dunes.”

In a press release, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control said it came to the decision mutually with La Vida Hospitality, the company that won the bid to operate existing concessions at the state park.

According to DNREC, La Vida Hospitality was awarded a one-year contract in April to manage the existing main beach food concession while both DNREC and La Vida conducted “due diligence” on a proposal to extend the contract and build a restaurant at the park’s main beach area.

Ultimately, DNREC determined that the necessary environmental review and contract negotiation “could not be completed by the contract’s expiration date of Dec. 31 and with La Vida Hospitality LLC in agreement, has chosen to the end the project.”

The department will continue seeking public input on services provided at the main beach area, including the bathhouse and beach crossing.

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A proposal to build a restaurant at Cape Henlopen State Park will not move forward after weeks of protests. (Facebook photo/CHSP)

According to the press release, the park is in need of expanded food service, ADA-accessible restrooms and additional beach crossings.

“Location, hours of operation, traffic, lighting and noise restrictions will remain key considerations with any improvements,” the agency said.

RELATED: Proposed Cape Henlopen eatery spawns protests, public forum

Opponents to the proposal, organized under the name Preserve Our Park Coalition, said it violated the Warner Grant Land Trust, which says lands in the park may not be used for private benefit “to the detriment of such public benefit, subject, however, to use for railroad purposes existing at the time of this Act.”

The group has launched a letter-writing campaign and held a protest march on Nov. 13 near the park entrance.

“We are opposed to constructing a privately-operated 6,000 square-foot oceanfront restaurant at Cape Henlopen State Park in the main ocean beach parking lot adjacent to the Hawk Watch,” the coalition said on its GoFundMe, which as of Tuesday has raised $5,605 of its $25,000 goal.

DNREC announced the decision at a public hearing on the matter Monday.

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