A new boat ramp at Little Creek should be an economic boon to the town

The Bayshore Initiative -- a project to help conserve, restore and protect waterways along Delaware’s shoreline -- will get a boost with the construction of a new boat ramp at Little Creek.

The $2.1 million ramp will be built by DNREC, Division of Fish and Wildlife Director David Saveikis said. The cost includes design and engineering work, securing permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and construction, Saveikis said.

The ramp will be built on what now is a dirt parking spot on the east side of the Route 9 bridge spanning the Little River south of the town. It will feature 10 parking spots for boat trailers, 11 single-vehicle parking spots and an 80-foot crabbing and fishing pier, he said.

The project includes restoration work on nearby wetlands, Saveikis added.

Eco-tourism

Little Creek Mayor Glenn Gauvry is particularly excited about the work planned on the south end of his town.

“We’re part of a designated discovery zone along the Bayshore Byway, one of the first communities along the highway and we’ve been an active participant in that,” Gauvry said.

“We’d been discussing a number of potential projects that would be good for the byway and the town and a boat ramp and fishing pier was one of those.”

With an eye toward promoting eco-tourism, the 52-mile Bayshore Byway stretches along the state’s east coast from north of New Castle to just south of Dover Air Force Base; there are 10 discovery zones along the byway, which mostly follows Delaware Route 9.

The discovery zones are areas where travelers can stop, learn more about the surrounding area and take part in recreational activities, including boating and fishing.

The idea of a boat ramp gained impetus with the September 2015 dredging of the Little River, from Route 9 to the Delaware Bay. The $1.1 million project made the shallow waterway navigable again for small boats.

Although Little Creek has made some economic strides of late including construction of a dog park and completing its comprehensive plan to help encourage development, there’s little real economic activity in the town. The area near the proposed boat ramp once included a deli and well-known restaurants such as Cavaliers and The Village Inn, but those now stand vacant.

“We’re hoping with the boat ramp and the fishing pier we’ll start to have some interest in terms of commercial development,” Gauvry said.

A recent survey of the town’s 220 residents by the University of Delaware supports that idea, he said.

“The report said people in the town want to use the river as they once did, going fishing and taking boats out on it, and to have it as an integral part of the community rather than it just wasting away,” he said.

“We’re looking at this as helping us bring an interest in commerce from people who might see it as an economic asset,” Gauvry said.

The project will benefit Little Creek’s fire company by providing space for the department’s marine boats and an above-ground fuel tank for the vessels.

The company now docks its fireboats at Port Mahon on the Delaware Bay, a three-mile drive along a mostly dirt roadway.

“Portions of Port Mahon Road can be washed out in really bad weather, and they can have a hard time getting out there when there’s an emergency in the bay,” he said.

Open within a year

Saveikis sees a lot of positives and no negatives with the boat ramp project.

“It will cater to small boats, canoes, and kayaks and will provide open access to the Delaware Bay,” he said. Wildlife and birding enthusiasts also will benefit from using the ramp because they’ll be able to see areas along the river normally difficult to access.

Although nature enthusiasts can travel through the nearby Little Creek Wildlife Area, the boat ramp will give them an additional way to traverse the 4,700-acre preserve of tidal marshes, forest and agricultural fields. The area is a popular site for small game, waterfowl and deer hunting and is a haven for numerous animals and birds, including the red knot, which was declared a threatened species in December 2015.

Unless someone raises major objections through the Corps of Engineers, Saveikis anticipates DNREC will request construction bids within the next few months, with construction beginning in early spring 2018. The ramp and boat dock should be open by the fall, he said.