FENWICK ISLAND – Community donations and a $20,000 commitment from the Town of Fenwick Island will allow the first phase of a median improvement project to move forward.
Last Friday, Fenwick Island property owner Lisa Luby Ryan came before the Fenwick Island Town Council seeking money and support for a median improvement project along Coastal Highway. While community donations have funded the first phase of the improvement project, she told officials she was seeking $20,000 from the town to install sod, as well as assistance in gaining approval from the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT).
“In order to do what we want to do, we have to get this approved by DelDOT …,” she said. “We’re on a quick timeline and we have to get this in by October. I know the council is in talks with DelDOT right now on sidewalks and other issues. So if we get approval from you all today to proceed with this, we would love for you to take our presentation to DelDOT and get that moving.”
Earlier this year, Ryan launched an effort to garner community support for a beautification project along Coastal Highway. By fixing the entrance sign at the north end of town and improving the median strip along the roadway, she said she was hoping that motorists and visitors would distinguish Fenwick Island as a quiet resort community.
“I love our little town, and we want to maintain a quiet resort. So I’ve put together a beautification project, phase one,” she said.
Working with RSC Landscaping – a subsidiary of East Coast Garden Center – Ryan said new shrubs and flowers would be planted around the north entrance sign. New Sioux crape myrtles would also be planted along the median strip from the north entrance to Atlantic Street. She said the enhancements would not only improve the look of Coastal Highway but would provide a traffic calming measure.
“People see 50 signs to greet them as they come into town but nothing that defines us as a small town,” she said. “And we want to improve the visitor impression and personality of our quiet resort.”
Ryan said the first phase of the project has been funded with community donations. Those participants, she added, would be recognized for their beautification efforts.
Ryan noted, however, that the plan calls for new sod along the median, which she said she was hoping the town could fund. She also sought the town’s support to maintain and water the plantings and gain DelDOT approval. With the agency’s approval, she said work would begin next month.
“We’re hoping to start this project in October,” she said. “It’s best when you do this sort of work in the fall.”
While he encouraged beautification participants to work with the police department when plantings are installed, Police Chief Michael Morrissey applauded the project.
“Coming from the north, the town is an extension of the highway,” he said. “So anything traffic calming I think is an outstanding idea.”
Mayor Natalie Magdeburger added that the project was supported by the town’s new comprehensive plan, which identifies Route 1 safety as a top priority.
“It makes me feel good this is a town coming together to do a project that’s clearly on our wishlist,” she said. “This is one of our goals … The fact that you’ve done it, taken it, run with it, come back with all the details, has saved months and months of time. And the fact there are community members, residents, businesses that are willing to put their money where their mouth is and do this, which is such an important goal, I’m so pleased.”
Magdeburger then made a motion to pursue the project and provide $20,000 for the purchase of Round Up and the installation of sod. The motion also called for seeking DelDOT approval.
Councilman Richard Benn, however, shared his concerns about the timing of the project. He questioned if Round Up would be effective in killing the existing grass during the fall months.
“I’m concerned we’re actually past the point of no return on the Bermuda grass,” he said.
Public Works Manager Mike Locke also expressed concerns the project would impact his department’s workload during the month of October. While the landscaping company and volunteer group would take on most of the work, he said public works would be tasked with maintenance.
“There’s other work we’ve been asked to take care of, watering being one of them,” he said. “And October, just for us, is a very tight month.”
Officials noted, however, that there could be fundraising opportunities to purchase water bags and volunteer efforts to maintain the new plantings.
“I want as many people that want to be involved in this to be involved in this,” Ryan said. “There’s a lot more we can do.”
When asked why fundraising had stopped and why the group was seeking town money, Ryan said she saw it as an opportunity to partner with the town. She noted, however, that the beautification group would continue to fundraise for the second and third phases of the project.
“My feeling is I like the fact the town has some skin in the game,” Magdeburger added. “This is now a project of all, and not just a group here and a group there.”
After further discussion, the council voted 6-0, with Benn abstaining, to approve funding and support for the project.
“I just think we’re not ready,” Benn said.