Contact: Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902
DNREC, Town of Bowers Beach celebrate opening of Main Street Park
Collaborative effort turns a formerly flooded house lot into an outdoors recreation asset
BOWERS BEACH (May 18, 2012) – DNREC and Bowers Beach will celebrate the town’s new Main Street Park Saturday, the park’s opening a testimony to successfully putting a flood-damaged piece of private property back on the map as an outdoors recreation community asset. Main Street Park was created through a unique collaboration of the Town of Bowers Beach, DNREC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Prior to this project, a house at 118 Williams Street in Bowers Beach – the location where the park now sits – was repeatedly flooded, to depths as great as 30 inches above the first floor. A storm in May 2008 caused extensive damage, much of it covered by flood insurance. However, just as the owner was completing repairs, a second storm the next year flooded the house again.
The house was a primary residence. In realizing that repairing flood damage only to have it recur was likely an endless cycle, the homeowner approached the Town of Bowers Beach and DNREC requesting a buy-out. In 2010, DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship applied for a grant of $150,000 from FEMA’s Flood Mitigation Assistance Program, which covered 75 percent of costs for purchasing the property and demolishing the house. At the same time, The Town of Bowers Beach requested $118,000 from the Delaware Land and Water Conservation Trust Fund to support the purchase of a small adjacent vacant lot and for covering the costs of converting both lots into a new town park featuring bocce courts.
Both grants were approved in early 2011, and by June the Town of Bowers Beach had purchased both lots, demolished the house and graded the site. Since then the town has conceived, designed and created Main Street Park at the corner of Williams and Main Streets.
DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara praised the town for opting to put a park on the site and called the park a perfect fit with the Delaware Bayshore Initiative that integrates public and private partnerships to enhance coastal conservation and boost the state’s economy through low-impact recreational activities. “Strategic recreational investments in the state’s historic coastal communities will strengthen local economies and improve the quality of life for local residents and visitors,” he said. “Main Street Park is a good illustration of several of the Bayshore Initiative’s core components of conservation and restoration, and healthy recreational activities that connect Delawareans to our great outdoors.”
Main Street Park in Bowers Beach also exemplifies timely and effective use of FEMA hazard mitigation funds, according to Michael Powell, flood mitigation program manager for DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship. “Taking the site of a primary residence which was repeatedly flooded and converting it to open-space recreational use is a great utilization of these programs,” he said. “The property owner had a nightmare of a flooding problem, FEMA had a major insurance liability, the town was looking for recreational opportunities – and DNREC has a program to supports local parks and recreation. It was a good opportunity to show how well local and state agencies can work together to accomplish mutual goals.”
The Delaware Land & Water Conservation Trust Fund (DTF) is a matching grant program that assists county and municipal agencies with park land acquisition, park/trail planning and outdoor recreation facility development. Bob Ehemann, DTF grant program manager for DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation, agreed that “this project is a good example of how programs with seemingly unrelated missions can convert a liability into a public asset.” With assistance from the land and water conservation trust fund, Main Street Park will remain a public park in perpetuity for town residents and visitors to enjoy.
The original property owner also benefited from DNREC’s collaboration with FEMA. “This grant provided flood victims in the Town of Bowers Beach the opportunity to start anew in a safer environment outside of the floodplain,” said FEMA Region III Administrator MaryAnn Tierney. “As the State of Delaware submits applications for mitigation grant funding, FEMA is committed to supporting its efforts to reduce communities’ risk from damage caused by natural hazards.”
On Saturday Bowers Beach will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Main Street Park at noon, with live music, food for sale from the Bowers Maritime Museum, and instruction on playing bocce, which is similar to bowling, on the new courts. For more information please contact Michael Powell at (302) 739-9921.
Vol. 42, No. 191