Coastal Communities Development Specialist Ed Lewandowski
Photo by Lisa Tossey
Delaware’s stretch of coastline may be small, but Ed Lewandowski likes to remind people that conditions there can have a big effect statewide.
“Hurricane Irene showed there are impacts from coastal events that can span the entire state,” he said. “Delaware is a coastal state. All three counties are considered coastal counties.”
Lewandowski joined the Delaware Sea Grant College Program (DESG) earlier this year to help communicate that message as part of his new role as coastal communities development specialist. Based at the University of Delaware’s Hugh R. Sharp campus in Lewes, he is working with community leaders, developers, and others to manage coastal environmental concerns while still allowing for economic growth. The goal is to promote a responsible balance, Lewandowski said, without overemphasizing any one area.
“You have to diversify economic growth so that you don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, like having real estate and housing as the sole driver,” he said. “We need to implement sustainable tourism, ensure that agriculture is profitable, and plan for wise land use and development.”
Lewandowski’s recent efforts have included involvement with recreational land acquisition, municipal planning, tourism enterprise, and other projects. He interacts closely with the leadership of UD’s Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative and reaches out to community organizations such as the Sussex Economic Development Action Committee.
Lewandowski studied marine science as an undergraduate at Southampton College and earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Wilmington University. The Bridgeville resident was a park interpreter at Trap Pond State Park before joining the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the bays and surrounding wetlands behind Delaware’s oceanfront. Over the course of his 13 years there, Lewandowski developed professional relationships with DESG staff that helped him hit the ground running when he began his new position in October.
One particular area of interest that Lewandowski looks to address is resiliency in the tourism industry, from adapting to sea level rise to better preparing for coastal storms. Communities need to effectively plan, react, and recover from lost tourism revenue in such circumstances, he said, and consider reverberations around the state.
“While certainly there is an emphasis on Sussex County, the University is working with and concerned about other areas around Delaware impacted by coastal conditions,” he said.