A Toast to the Coast

The Delaware Bay may get upstaged by the Chesapeake, and it’s often overlooked by us here, but it’s worth a peek.

There is something special about the aroma of our marshes and bays, a sweetness born of the relentless cycle of birth and decay that drives the life and health of the estuary. That smell makes my heart soar, and I look forward to breathing it as I speed down SR 1 on a summer day. It always renews my appreciation of a unique resource.

So I envy the residents of places such as Bowers Beach and the other towns on the Delaware Bay. Many live as part of a unique ecosystem that is important to marine life and migratory birds around the world. For all the trappings of working-class toil, those towns have a culture and a beauty that is beyond sublime.

A newspaper assignment first led me to Bowers 20 years ago. I was far from a stranger to the towns on Del. 9, but driving to Bowers to cover the auction of the legendary Heartbreak Hotel, I discovered something else, a place where the waterman’s culture and something of a frontier attitude still thrived.

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In the years since, I’ve been privileged to participate in a small way in the life of places such as Leipsic, Little Creek and the other towns writer Nick DiUlio describes in “Where Nowhere Is” on page 38. And, always, I felt a twinge of envy. Growing up in New Castle, my friends and I had a Huck Finn-ish appreciation for the freedom we felt while exploring the local marshes. So when Ellen Sayers of Sayers Jewelers in Smyrna told me she’d grown up in Port Mahon, back when oystering was the most desirable work on the bay, I could imagine the experience as something magical. (If you’ve ever been to Port Mahon, you know how small a place it is. If not, read about it in James Milton Hanna’s fine “Meandering Around Delaware Bay,” published by Cherokee Books.)

As you’ll learn from Nick’s story, life is changing in these places. Everything seems to give way eventually to the pressure to develop (a phenomenon we sometimes mistake as progress). But the bay towns are blessed to be somewhat isolated. Limited access means limited potential for uncontrolled growth. And that means you can still experience one of the most novel aspects of life in our state.

So take a drive down the coast, or explore the Coastal Heritage Greenway trail. It’ll be a great day, something very special. I promise.

 

The Day Book
  • It was lots of fun to serve on the media panel with Lynn Doyle of CN8, Chris Carl of WDEL and Eric Ruth of The News Journal during the Women’s Expo at the University & Whist Club.
     
  • It was an honor to meet Adrienne Arsht, a huge supporter of the Nemours Bright Start program to increase literacy among children. Many thanks to Lisa Wolfe of Delaware Community Foundation for the invitation to the reception at the Wilmington Club. Stephen Rapposelli, here’s a special shout out.
     
  • It was great fun to talk with Charlie Burton during the Best of Delaware launch party at the i.g. Burton dealership, as well as to Rick and Valery Cordrey of East Coast Garden Center. Pete Renzi, it’s always great to see you. To everyone at i.g. Burton: You’re the best.
     
  • I couldn’t have been more pleased to see my friend, reading specialist Mary Cleary, at the International Reading Association’s reception for outstanding educators Jo Anne Deshon and Karen Fredericks. It was a real pleasure to meet director Bill Harvey. I hope you’re enjoying Delaware.