Sussex County Delaware
Bethany Landmark
Ready for Unveiling
Sussex Beat, July 12, 2002

NOTE: Sussex Beat is a log of news briefs and commentary by Kerin Magill, editor of Sussex County Online, with contributions from Sussex County Online users.


Kerin Magill, Sussex County Online

SC Online

"Chief Little Owl" Returns to Resort

Bethany Beach Totem Pole

Photos: "Chief Little Owl" before his installation at Garfield Parkway and Route 1 in Bethany Beach on Friday, July 12, 2002. Courtesy of Pamela McComas.

The Bethany Beach landmark known as "Chief Little Owl" is back. Town officials are hoping the third time's a charm for the Whispering Giant. Crews maneuvered the sculpture into place at Garfield Parkway and Route 1 on Friday, July 12, 2002, in preparation for the official unveiling, set for Monday, July 15 at 10 a.m.

This is the third incarnation of Chief Little Owl, and the second carved by famed Florida sculptor Peter Toth. Toth carved the first one, which stood at the entrance to Bethany Beach's business district from 1976 until it was taken down in 1993 due to termite damage. It was one of 50 Toth carved -- one for each state -- in an effort to promote a spirit of universal brotherhood.

Toth has also carved more than a dozen sculptures that have been donated to various sites in Canada.

A replica of Bethany's Chief Little Owl I was carved by Dennis D. Beach lasted until 2000, when it, too, had to be removed because of damage from water and insects.

In the two years since it was removed, the sculpture has been the subject of much discussion, several Fourth of July floats and a fundraising campaign. Last year, Toth was commissioned to carve the replacement, and he selected a red cedar log from Alaska for the new sculpture, which is expected to last between 50 and 100 years.

Toth is expected to speak at the unveiling and dedication ceremony, as are Mayor Joseph McHugh, Charles Clark, representing the Nanticoke Tribe, and Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce president Monte Wisbrock.

Toth's artistic exploits made Ripley's Believe It or Not column. Here are a few links to more information about Toth and his Native American sculptures.

Bethany Beach Totem Pole

Smelly water prompts test in Bethany

Following reports of green, "fishy" smelling water in Bethany Beach, tests on seawater Monday, July 8 showed no indication of toxic organisms in the water, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control reported.

State environmental officials, however, advised swimmers to "use common sense" if they encounter discolored, bad-smelling water at beaches and other recreational swimming areas.

Preliminary tests were conducted at the University of Delaware's College of Marine Studies, Lewes, following reports early this week of discolored, unpleasant-smelling water from lifeguards at Bethany Beach.

Those tests indicated high numbers of a single-celled organism called Gymnodinium. Later tests at Belle Baruch Laboratory at the University of South Carolina, Charleston, confirmed the presence of Gymnodinium as well as two other microscopic, free-swimming organisms, Scrippsiella trochoidea and Katodinim rotundatum.

The organisms deteriorated too quickly for the lab to identify subspecies, but the laboratory reported Friday, July 12, 2002 that the organisms are non-toxic.

The Delaware Department of Health and Human Services reported no ill effects from anyone swimming in the water Monday, and the Division of Water Resources has received no reports of ill health from members of the public.

As of July 11, 2002, the discolored water observed early Monday had dissipated completely. Meanwhile, DNREC continues to track episodes of algal blooms and other water conditions through reports from the state's citizens monitoring program and the Division of Water Resources' water sampling and monitoring programs.

Testing results for the Division's recreational waters program are posted on the Department's web site at Click on "Beaches" and select "Beach Monitoring."

South Bethany dredging inches forward

South Bethany's plans to dredge its network of canals is moving forward with what Mayor Donald Beck called "baby steps." The council plans to meet with a consultant from the U.S. Naval Academy to discuss how to proceed.

In a related move, the town council introduced a new bulkhead ordinance at its Thursday, July 11 meeting. Beck said the new ordinance removes 30-year-old language and puts the responsibility for regulating the building and maintenance of bulkheads on the state.

The council also took action to prohibit personal watercraft docks in the town, in the wake of the construction of four such docks without permits from the town or state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

"They just don't work in our town," said Beck, adding that the residents who had constructed them were apparently given bogus state permits by the company where they bought their personal watercraft.

The Town of South Bethany's web site can be found at

Park's new boardwalk dedicated

Cape Henlopen State Park's main bathhouse has a brand new boardwalk, thanks to the generosity of its neighbor, SPI Pharma Group, formerly the Barcroft Co.

Division of Parks and Recreation Director Charles A. Salkin and Park Administrator Pat Cooper showed off the re-decked boardwalk on Friday, July 12, 2002. The division also unveiled a plaque expressing appreciation for the pharmaceutical company's $12,500 donation to the project.

Site manager A. Kim Brittingham, who as a teenager worked several summers as a seasonal employee at the park, represented SPI Pharma.

Salkin said SPI Pharma and Cape Henlopen State Park have a long-standing relationship.

"This most recent gift covered half the cost of re-decking the boardwalk and made it possible for park staff to complete the project in a tight budget year," he said.

Past contributions include helping with major improvements to the fishing pier.

For many years the company has had an agreement with the Division of Parks and Recreation for an underground pipeline to pump seawater as a source of magnesium salts from the Delaware Bay at the park's fishing pier to the plant.

For more information about Cape Henlopen or the other state parks, visit

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