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Cape Henlopen fishing pier reopens

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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$1.2 million renovation fixes pilings and redecks WWII-era structure

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, and after being closed 16 of the past 20 months, the Cape Henlopen fishing pier has reopened.

With a $1.2 million project completed, which included stabilizing more than 100 of the pier's pilings and redecking, state and local officials are hoping the pier will remain open uninterrupted for years to come.

This pier is one of the most popular spots in Delaware State Parks system, said Ray Bivens, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Division of Parks and Recreation director, to a large group of people gathered for the Wednesday, May 25 reopening of the fishing pier in Cape Henlopen State Park.

Come here on Saturday, said Bivens, and there will be 300 people using this pier, maybe more. He said the pier was sorely missed over the past year-and-a-half.

Bivens said more than 160,000 nails and 6,650 boards were used to redeck the pier.

"This has been the largest investment in this pier to date," he said.

The pier was first closed in October 2014 after an engineering study showed 45 pilings had to be replaced. A follow-up study showed all of the pier's 125 pilings would need replacement in the next few years.

This wasn't the first time repairs were needed on the pilings of the all-wood, World War II-era pier. Since 2007, there have been several rehabilitation efforts on the section that has remained open for public use. In 2012, the crumbling T-head portion of the structure was demolished.

This time around, the pier reopened briefly just before Labor Day in 2015 after the piling repairs were completed using concrete-filled, fiberglass-constructed sheaths, but it was closed down again in January for the decking replacement.

Clark Evans, owner of Old Inlet Bait and Tackle just north of the Indian River Inlet, represented the fishing community during the grand reopening. He said his shop sends families and individuals with impaired mobility to the fishing pier on a daily basis.

"We felt it when this pier closed," he said. "The money spent on this project is money well spent."

There hasn't been a person more interested in the opening of the pier than Taylor Deemer. He's the manager of Lighthouse View Bait and Tackle, the bait shop between the pier's parking lot and the pier, and they've been closed since November 2014.

"It feels really great to see people out there ready to fish," he said. "The pier looks great. They did a great job with the decking."

Anglers looking to be the first to pull up a flounder, bluefish or maybe even a weakfish looked antsy as they waited for the pomp and circumstance surrounding the opening of the pier to be over.

Ralph Morgan of Lewes said he's been fishing off the pier for many years, with good success. He was sitting on the edge of his fishing cart, which had five rods, a net, a bucket of tools, a tackle box, a bait bucket and a cooler.

"I found out about this yesterday, so I got my rods ready and now I'm ready to go," said Morgan. "I'm ready for all occasions."

The mother-and-daughter team of Debbie Viscuglia of Long Neck and Julie Stevenson of Milton had been keeping tabs on the deck's progress.

They've been watching the updates on the bait shop's Facebook page.

The state park is the northernmost point of Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf's D-Rehoboth district. He said there wasn't one issue he received more complaints about than when the pier closed.

Route 1 issues took a back seat when this pier closed down, said Schwartzkopf, referencing the six-lane-wide highway that runs through the center of his district. He said he didn't realize how many of the locals in his district used the pier. He added the renovations have been well worth the wait and will do a good job extending the life of the pier.

While everyone was glad to be out on the refurbished pier, not everyone was there to sing "Kumbaya."

Bill Smith, a 90-year-old Rehoboth resident, said he has been fishing off the pier for 30 or 40 years. He said he loves the pier because fish love structure. Pointing to the pier coming out of the Cape Shores community and the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, Smith said there's noplace else for the fish to stop when running along the shoreline.

Smith said he was one of those who complained to state officials. The state was given this pier for free, and they didn't do anything with it for decades, he said.

"They should be ashamed of themselves for letting the pier get to the condition it was in," said Smith, pointing to the rotting pilings coming up from the former T-head location. "This pier is a monument and should be treated that wav."

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Original Publication Date: May 27, 2016

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