Fenwick considers event for lighthouse

Fenwick Island Town Council heard a proposal for an “aquathlon” to benefit the Fenwick Island Lighthouse Foundation at the March 18 town council meeting.
Kent Buckson of Surf Racer Sports presented the plan for a half-mile swim/five kilometer run through town, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 20.

According to Buckson, the company has put on events to benefit the Lower Delaware Autism Foundation (LDAF) and breast cancer awareness.

Buckson said he’d met Council Member Martha Keller at a presentation for an event to benefit the Overfalls Maritime Museum Foundation (Lewes).

Keller said she’d tapped Council Member R. Chris Clark to follow up, and Buckson said he, Clark and Police Chief Collette Sutherland had discussed some of the potential problems since then.

Some of those issues came up again at the March 18 meeting.

Mayor/President Peter Frederick voiced concerns regarding traffic and parking. He said rentals around town traditionally changed over on Saturdays, which might create a conflict with the run portion.

Buckson said he was flexible, but he’d hoped to ask St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church for parking space, and obviously there’d be a conflict on Sunday.

(He also planned to petition Peninsula Mercantile Bank and Dairy Queen.)

Clark said they’d tried to address the changeover traffic issue in two ways. One, the event would be scheduled from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Two, Aug. 20 being late in the season, changeover should be somewhat lighter as many families ready for school.

“Hopefully, some of the incoming renters will participate, and maybe some people before they go home on Saturday, too,” Clark said.

Frederick asked Buckson how many people he thought might participate.

Buckson anticipated 200 people this inaugural year, with a goal of 500 in future events.

Resident Buzz Henefin questioned the portion of proceeds that would actually benefit the lighthouse — 25 percent per participant. “Does 75 percent go to your company, or what,” he asked.

According to Buckson, non-profits did indeed have a much lower overhead (15 to 18 percent. “Obviously, our business makes money — as it should,” he noted.

He estimated 40 percent of the proceeds would go toward expenses — liability insurance, $5 to $10 per person for timing, advertisement, t-shirts, medals and trophies, etc.

Although host towns occasionally pitched in for police and lifeguards, Buckson said Surf Racer Sports might have to reimburse the town their time as well — that remained to be negotiated.

He said Surf Racer Sports could increase the 25-percent commitment by five percent in each subsequent aquathlon.

However, he also said it wasn’t all about the money — the event would also be good publicity for the lighthouse foundation, possibly bringing in new membership or even corporate sponsors.

Council Member Harry Haon asked whether the police department and beach patrol would be able to pick up extra duty that day. Sutherland and Lifeguard Captain Tim Ferry agreed they could, with Ferry adding, “We just need to know how many guards to have out there.”

Buckson planned to position a guard on paddleboard every 250 feet or so, along the “skirmish line” between the buoys.

That would require eight to 10 guards, but as Buckson noted, the swim was slated to begin at 8 a.m. He expected the heats (male open, female open, team competitors) to enter the water at two-minute intervals, with everyone back on the beach within 45 minutes.

Runners would take two loops around town, along Route 1 and Bunting Avenue.

Council unanimously accepted in principle the concept of holding such an event, pending more information on the specifics.