The 2022 Cape Henlopen State Park's Park Improvement Update from June included plans for a full-service restaurant at the McBride Bathhouse parking area. The proposed restaurant will be funded and operated by La Vida Hospitality Group. La Vida operates several area restaurants, including Crooked Hammock and The Big Chill Beach Club, located at the Indian River Inlet.
Currently, the Chapter is not opposed to or supportive of the project. We feel the State has the right to make improvements to the state park visitor experience. We ask that these improvements be done responsibly and consider public input before finalizing a plan. We also ask that all parties involved be transparent in their plans and activities on this project.
The proposed footprint of the restaurant is 6,300 sf, similar in size to the current bathhouse (6,750 sf). The plan also includes additional public restrooms and new boardwalk access to the beach. The Chapter has concerns regarding coastal preservation and protection, beach access, and plastic trash harming the coastal ecosystems.
The plan has the restaurant near a dune where no current construction exists. The dune is critical to coastal protection from storms and sea rise. The Chapter is working to ensure it is within the parameters of the Coastal Preservation Act and meets dune setback regulations.
The state parks in Delaware are as popular as ever and attract millions of visitors each year. The parks that include beaches are the most popular and will fill by late morning on summer weekends. Adding a full-service restaurant will attract more visitors to the park. The demand for a limited number of parking areas will increase without additional parking. We already see this issue at the south side of the Indian River Inlet parking lot where The Big Chill Beach Club is located.
Restaurants are significant sources of single-use plastic trash. This type of trash is one of the most common we find during our beach cleanups. We feel that any restaurant or concession in a state park should meet our Ocean Friendly Restaurant criteria. Currently, La Vida does not have a restaurant enrolled in our program. We are working to contact them to discuss enrollment across their many restaurants in the area.
The Chapter has had a call with DNREC to discuss the restaurant plan. We have asked that they keep us informed on any updates or changes as this moves forward. We are currently seeking a conversation with La Vida Hospitality representatives.