State is trying to bridge troubled waters at marina

By Lynn R. Parks

A meeting last week between state officials and representatives of the Blades Marina has not resolved the question of public access to the marina waters. According to Bill Moyer, manager of the state wetlands and subaqueous lands program, directors of the Division of Fish and Wildlife and Parks and Recreation will meet soon, to try to determine if anglers are allowed to fish in the water of the marina. The state-owned marina, on the south bank of the Nanticoke River, opened in 1999. Its construction was funded by nearly $5 million in state funds. The marina is leased from the state by the town of Blades, which in turn leases it to the non-profit Blades Economic Development Corporation (BEDCO), which is responsible for its operation. The corporation has banned fishing in the marina, citing a Delaware law that bans fishing from piers, docks, bulkheads and vessels in state park marinas. But, according to Moyer, whether the Blades Marina is a state park, subject to that law, is still an open question. “It is state land, but it is not really a state park,” said Roy Miller, state fisheries administrator. “If it is not a state park, does that regulation apply? This is something that requires more thought.” If it is determined that the marina is not a state park, and the state law does not apply, banning fishing there will be a difficult proposition, Moyer said. Historically, tidal waters are considered public property. Moyer said that the state law banning fishing in state park marinas is a matter of safety. “It makes sense to avoid conflict between boaters and fishermen,” he said. “It is just common sense that with boats around, coming and going, it is not a good place to fish.”
This matter came to a head in mid-September, when the Delaware Bass Federation held a state fishing tournament in the Nanticoke. Anglers were told that they could not fish in the marina. “That water is still tidal water and anyone has a right to fish there,” said Jim Fields, president of the 350-member anglers group. “That marina was built with public funds and taxpayers should be outraged that the public cannot use it.” Bass love the type of environment that is created by a lagoon marina like that in Blades, Fields said. The lagoon has still water and, with its pilings, lots of fish hiding places. Miller hopes that, regardless of the final state decision, a compromise between the marina and the bass federation can be worked out. “I have offered to convene a meeting with Jim Fields and BEDCO, to work toward something in everyone’s best interests,” he said. That compromise could mean that fishermen are permitted in the entrance to the marina, but not in the marina itself, Moyer said. But Fields predicts that, if fishing is not allowed in the marina, his association members will not be happy. One proposal made at the association’s fall meeting was for its 350 members to anchor their boats in the Nanticoke, to “plug up the marina.” “We have no definite plans yet,” he said. “But our guys are real upset. The marina doesn’t want 350 bass boats there; we could stop any business from taking place. If we have to, we will so we can let the public know what is going on down there.”

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