Access to Beaches
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.
The Bethany Beach Landowners Association (BBLA) has asked Attorney General Jane Brady to help keep oceanfront homeowners outside of town limits from restricting access to the beaches in front of their homes.
In a June 4 letter to Brady, BBLA president Calvin Baldwin said members believe restricting beach access in oceanfront developments is a violation of the Public Trust Doctrine. He suggested such access should be a condition of any "public benefits" going to a community.
Baldwin mentioned specifically the Sussex Shores community immediately north of Bethany Beach. He said a guard posted near a fence going toward the water, and a sign reading "Passing Through Only," prevent anyone other than Sussex Shores residents from sitting on the beach.
Baldwin cited a case in New Jersey, Matthews v. Bay Head Improvement Association, which the BBLA believes has ramifications in Delaware.
In the Matthews case, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided that the public has a right to use the ocean as well as the beach, even when the beach is privately owned.
Bethany Beach Town Council member Lois Lipsett will ask the council on Friday, July 19 to consider supporting the BBLA's request for help from the Attorney General's office.
Photo: Charles Clark of the Nanticoke Indian tribe sings a Native American prayer (more photos below).
Bethany Beach's landmark sculpture of "Chief Little Owl" was officially dedicated during a 45-minute ceremony Monday, July 15, 2002. The statue, depicting a Nanticoke Indian chief with a north-facing eagle atop his head, was unveiled by a town staff member.
Remarks from Peter Toth, the sculptor who carved Bethany Beach's first "Whispering Giant" in 1976 as well as the new one, were followed by comments and a dedication ritual by Charles Clark, former assistant chief of the Nanticoke Indian Tribe.
The mood of the gathering, which attracted about 100 onlookers, varied from humorous to solemn. Cherie Dorfman of the Bethany Beach Women's Civic Association likened the unveiling -- which had its tricky moments -- to "an old lady taking a dress off over her head."
Clark told the crowd they stood on "sacred ground," simply because they stood in America, which he described as the only place on earth where all races come together in unity.
Clark expressed appreciation to Toth, who carved the first "Chief Little Owl" in 1976 as part of a project in which he has now placed a totem pole in each of the 50 states and another 15 in Canada. His purpose in doing so, he said, was to promote unity among all people..
The new Whispering Giant is carved from a red cedar log from Alaska, which Toth said he personally selected. The sculpture it replaced was carved from white oak and showed signs of serious damage after seven years. The red cedar sculpture is expected to last from 50 to 100 years.
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