FENWICK ISLAND – Officials say a proposal to improve Fenwick Island State Park through a partnership with an offshore wind developer has come to a standstill as staff review thousands of responses from a public survey.
On January 15, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Division of Parks & Recreation closed the comment period for proposed improvements, including new recreational amenities and infrastructure upgrades, at Fenwick Island State Park. Orsted, the developer of the Skipjack wind farm off the coast, has proposed funding the capital projects in exchange for constructing an onshore interconnection facility on park grounds.
This week, Delaware State Parks Community Relations Coordinator Shauna McVey said DNREC received 2,319 unique survey responses during the public comment period. She explained that staff will be reviewing those responses throughout the coming weeks.
“We have not set a deadline on reviewing survey feedback, as we want to thoroughly research answers to frequently asked questions,” she said.
McVey explained that the parks department also would work with other agencies throughout the review period.
“Our planning staff will work with other sections of DNREC and federal agencies like the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) to answer frequently asked questions,” she said, “and those responses will be posted at https://destateparks.com/fenwickimprovements.”
The conclusion of the public comment period comes months after DNREC Division of Parks & Recreation first presented proposed park improvements to the community.
In an open house last October, the division announced a proposal which, if approved, would allow Orsted to construct an onshore power transmission station at Fenwick Island State Park in exchange for millions of dollars in park improvements, including a nature center, new bathrooms, a pedestrian overpass and additional parking.
Orsted is one of the two companies holding permits for offshore wind energy farms off the coast. While its Skipjack project is considered a Maryland project, Orsted must bring its transmission lines ashore to connect to the power grid.
To that end, the company has targeted the Delaware state park as a future home for the interconnection facility.
Elected leaders and community members, however, have largely opposed the proposal, arguing against development at an otherwise quite state park.
And at the request of community stakeholders, DNREC agreed to extend the deadline for public comments on the proposed improvements through January 15.
In a meeting last week, Orsted Project Development Manager Ian Renshaw told local elected leaders and community members that the company will provide more information after public comments are reviewed.
“We are currently waiting for DNREC to review the comments they have received,” he said. “They are currently looking at that, and we’re hoping to issue something in the coming weeks.”
While discussions on proposed park improvements have stalled, Renshaw said Orsted continues to field questions and provide information on the Skipjack project and interconnection facility.
“Offshore wind has had a long and successful history in Europe,” he said. “It’s a new concept in the U.S., so it’s natural to have questions, particularly in respect to elements such as the interconnection facility we are talking about here.”