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DNREC: New surf-beach parking restrictions to be ‘strictly enforced’

Congregated vehicles become stacked along a stretch of one of four Delaware surf beaches.

A 30% rise over the last five years in the number of vehicles with surf-fishing permits,  and the number of 2015 permits purchased is expected to reach 15,000.

The permits allow vehicles onto designated beaches along the First State shoreline, but the volume has raised questions lately about the effective enforcement of surf beach regulations and the DNREC is taking action.

DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation Director Ray Bivens has exercised his authority to immediately limit parking to a single file along the entirety of all surf fishing beaches – from where the dunes end to the water’s edge.

Various fishing groups – like Delaware Mobile Surf Fisherman – have voiced approval of the changes, having expressed concern that many permit holders were not showing up to engage in sport fishing.

But State Parks Enforcement Chief Wayne Kline says while that may be true, his main focus is avoiding unmanageable crowds that make it difficult to properly enforce all rules.

“The surf fishing beaches, alcohol is permitted. One of the things that we think will be reduced is the large party-like atmosphere that can occur when you have three, four or five vehicles stacked up and you have 30 or 40 or 50 people.”

Chief Kline recalls one day last year where crowding along the 2.1 miles of Cape Henlopen’s surf beach was especially noticeable.

“So at a given point in the day - and it was a weekend in the summertime – we had 987 vehicles. How can we effectively enforce ‘actively engaged in surf fishing’ and the other surf fishing regulations when we have that kind of volume on the beach.”

Kline adds managing emergencies like fires and rescues will also be easier under the new rules - which he said DNREC prefers over capping the number of permits available.

The rule changes are in effect for all four of Delaware’s surf-fishing beaches. Officials also remind that surf beach parking is first-come, first-served and to arrive early to guarantee a spot.