Cape Gazette
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Barefootin'

Bicycle lanes, barking tree frogs, coastal freshwater ponds

By Dennis Forney | Apr 12, 2013
Photo by: Dennis Forney Simple separation posts like these near the entrance to Cape Henlopen State Park make bicyclists and walkers feel safer and drivers more alert.

We recently published an editorial calling on DelDOT to create some kind of physical separation between the narrow bicycle and pedestrian lanes on Rehoboth Avenue Extended and the vehicle lanes. This is a very dangerous area with lots of car, bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Police continue to search for a hit-and-run driver who struck and seriously injured a rollerblader there earlier this year.

Delaware, under the leadership of Gov. Jack Markell, is making great efforts to link our communities with hiking and biking trails for alternative transportation and recreation. The state is also encouraging people to get outdoors as much as possible because people outdoors tend to be more active than those who stay indoors. We have an obesity and diabetes epidemic in this country which is causing huge medical problems.

If we want people to get outside more, we have to make them feel safe. Creating a physical barrier is shown to make people feel safer. They can also make drivers more alert to dicey situations, such as Rehoboth Avenue Extended.

We do make these separations elsewhere. The photograph with this column shows the posts mounted between the bicycle trail and the vehicle travel lanes near the entrance to Cape Henlopen State Park at Lewes. Posts such as these could be installed in Rehoboth to help make that area safer as we move into the summer season. Activity is going to pick up quickly, so the sooner we get some kind of installation in place, the safer people will be and the more they will be inclined to use the bicycle and walking lanes.

Coastal freshwater ponds

Frogs start singing earlier than birds when days start getting longer. Now with the weather warming, birds have joined the chorus. It’s nice to wake up to their joyful songs.

Back in February, a group of us mucked through a wet woods east of Georgetown. It was an unusually warm day during an unusually cold winter. The frogs liked the reprieve. We had never heard barking tree frogs before that day, but we sure did then. Spring peepers put up a continuous chorus, but these barking tree frogs sounded just like their name.

Frogs like fresh water. Becky and I took a training ride to Indian River Inlet a few weekends ago. We will head out to Portland, Oregon, on May 11 and start pedaling home. I’ll write about the journey on my Barefootin’ blog at CapeGazette.com. It will be titled Sea to Shining Sea.

Along the ocean highway south of Dewey Beach, the surroundings turn wild quickly. Marsh and bayberries on both sides of the road, the smell of salt filling the nose. In one short section, though, I suddenly noticed the sound of spring peepers. What were frogs doing in that salty environment?

Then I saw another clue: cattails. Cattails live in freshwater environments. I was passing one of those small patches of fresh water that makes the dunes and their thick scrub habitable for foxes, rabbits, deer, and other birds and animals.

The largest patch of fresh water we have along Delaware’s coast is Silver Lake in Rehoboth Beach. During last weekend’s excellent series of seminars in Lewes on the War of 1812, Chuck Fithian of Delaware’s Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs mentioned Silver Lake when he was discussing the bombardment of Lewes.

At that time, long before Rehoboth Beach existed, Silver Lake was known as Newbold’s Pond. Then, as now, it was notable as a source of fresh water for vessels making their way up and down the coast.

Fithian said after Lewes refused Commodore John Beresford’s demands for food and water, and then failed to bring the townspeople and the gathered militia to their knees after 22 hours of shelling, the commodore had to look elsewhere for supplies. He sent a landing party down the coast to Newbold’s Pond for fresh water, but Col. Samuel Boyer Davis - commanding officer for the troops in Lewes - didn’t make life any easier for the British there. Fithian said Davis sent troops south seven or so miles, once again drove the British off and made them look elsewhere to quench their thirst.

Meanwhile, back in Lewes, the local and visiting militia camped comfortably atop Blockhouse Pond Hill, the location for several decades now of the Bethel Methodist Cemetery. The hill offered defensible high ground and looks over another important local source of fresh water: Blockhouse Pond.

The British were never able to drink from that one either.

AFTERNOTE: What was the population of Sussex County in 1810, based on the national census? According to Scharf’s 1888 History of Delaware, Sussex led Delaware with 27,759 people of which 2,402 were classified as slaves. New Castle was next with 24,429 and Kent came in at 20,495.

This patch of cattails along the Ocean Highway south of Dewey Beach denotes an isolated source of fresh water. (Photo by: Dennis Forney)
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