According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Sussex County, Delaware, grew 38% between 1990 and 2000. The county’s coastal communities grew at an even faster rate — by more than 50%. In addition to the obvious impacts of the increased population, such as traffic congestion, loss of open space, and deteriorating water quality, there is a human side to the growth issue in the county that has yet to be explored.
On Thursday, November 20, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at the Virden Conference Center on the University of Delaware’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, a seminar will be held to begin exploring some of the issues Sussex County residents face as growing populations begin to re-shape their communities. “Communities in Transition: Coping with Growth in Coastal Sussex County, Delaware” will feature presentations by University of Delaware Sea Grant researchers, community leaders, and nationally recognized speakers. The event is hosted by the UD Sea Grant College Program and the Greater Lewes Foundation, with support from Delaware Coastal Programs and the Center for the Inland Bays.
Chris Maser and John Bailey will be the keynote speakers for the day-long program. Maser, a resident of Corvallis, Oregon, has spent more than 20 years as an environmental scientist and has researched human interactions in natural settings. He is now an international lecturer and facilitator, assisting communities with sustainable development issues. One of his recent books, Setting the Stage for Sustainability: A Citizen’s Handbook, explores how communities can nurture a healthy future by protecting and preserving their “sense of place.”
Bailey is the research director at Smart Growth America, a nationwide coalition promoting a better way to grow — one that protects farmland and open space, revitalizes neighborhoods, keeps housing affordable, and provides more transportation choices. He analyzes state and local policy issues, tracks development trends nationwide, and assists in communications for the organization. He has been a research analyst at the Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse and a legislative fellow for the U.S. Senate’s Smart Growth Task Force.
Seminar attendees also will hear what county residents feel about growth, development, and quality-of-life issues from two recent UD Sea Grant surveys. Jim Falk, Marine Advisory Service director, will present findings from a county-wide, quality-of-life survey he conducted in 2002, while colleague Joe Farrell will share the results from a recent survey of Lewes residents that was undertaken to help the community develop their comprehensive plan.
“The county’s future does not lie entirely in building more highways or creating planned residential communities that reduce sprawl, but also in insuring that residents and visitors do not lose their sense of community that has been the cornerstone of life in coastal Sussex County, Delaware,” says Falk. “It’s difficult to foresee what the future holds for coastal Sussex County, but according to the results of these surveys, protecting and conserving the area’s natural resources is a top priority.”
A special panel of invited community leaders will provide their perspectives on how their communities are adjusting to growth by discussing the positive changes they’ve made, as well as the challenges they still face. Speakers will include Sam Cooper, mayor, City of Rehoboth Beach; Gene Dvornick, operations manager of Cannery Village, Milton; Dennis Forney, chairman, Greater Lewes Foundation; and Kathy Roth, town manager, Ocean View. Lee Ann Walling, deputy director of Delaware’s Economic Development Office, will discuss a new small communities economic development initiative the state will be launching in the near future.
The seminar costs $30 per person, and advanced registration is required. To register, contact Rita Baty at the UD Sea Grant College Program in Lewes at (302) 64504346, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit www.ocean.udel.edu/mas/SGseminar/transition.html and download a registration form. UD’s Virden Center is located on the Hugh R. Sharp Campus, 700 Pilottown Road, Lewes.