Delaware Bayshore Initiative seeks to preserve coastal communities and draw visitors

A new effort to preserve coastal wildlife and natural areas, while making them more accessible to visitors, is beginning in central and southern Delaware.

The focus is on communities like Kitts Hummock, Slaughter Beach, Bowers Beach and others that are within easy access of Route One – but bypassed by hordes of visitors to major resorts like Rehoboth Beach or Dewey Beach.

“We don’t have any ferris wheels. We don’t have any popcorn stands,” Slaughter Beach Mayor Frank Draper said. Instead, people come to the community to enjoy what the locals enjoy: kayaking, observing waterfowl or horseshoe crabs, or going fishing.

Slaughter Beach hosted Tuesday’s kick-off of the Delaware Bayshore Initiative, part of the federal government’s initiative to preserve and promote the great outdoors.

“Our bayshore offers unrivaled recreational opportunities for hunters, anglers, boaters and kayakers, for hikers and bikers, casual wildlife watchers and birders,” Delaware Natural Resources Secretary Collin O’Mara said. “We want to build on those strengths.”

“This initiative reinforces our shared commitment to protect the region’s clean air, clean coastal water, coastal marshes and beaches, and agricultural lands, all of which support jobs and a vibrant recreation and tourism economy,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said.

The Bayshore extends from Delaware City to Lewes. Governor Jack Markell said while the area’s attractions will be promoted to the 30-million people who live within a three-hour drive, there is little chance of these communities becoming the next Rehoboth Beach or Dewey Beach.

“We’d love to have more people enjoying what’s available here, and spending their money locally,” the Governor said.

Draper, meanwhile, said Slaughter Beach was full of visitors during the unseasonably warm Memorial Day weekend. Many were there to enjoy the quiet beach, while some were enthusiastic birdwatchers keeping an eye out for the migrating red knot.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ron Hunsicker of Bowers Beach hopes the initiative will preserve as well as expand the bayshore’s maritime heritage.

“The residents who have enjoyed the blessings that the bayshore provides must dedicate themselves to making these natural gifts available to everyone,” Hunsicker said. “Only then will we realize the true potential that nature has given us.”

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