Working Waterfronts

Leipsic’s Working Waterfronts report is now available. The report documents the concerns and aspirations residents of this Kent County town have for their community of fewer than 200 residents.  The town, adjacent to the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, has a colorful heritage of commerce on the Leipsic River that continues today along the dock next to Sambo’s Tavern. The town is not looking to grow but wants to celebrate its heritage and keep its small flotilla of working watermen afloat.


From Claymont to Fenwick Island, Delaware’s “working waterfronts” contribute to the State’s economic vitality and quality of life and are important to maintaining  Delaware’s coastal heritage. Unfortunately, many of these working waterfronts have experienced significant decline due to the loss of commercial fishing and processing industries over the last several decades.

As populations shift to coastal areas, new growth and development pressures such as tourism, residential housing and recreational fishing are being exerted on communities with working waterfronts. In addition, tourism and recreation are increasingly taking over for other traditional uses of the ocean, such as fisheries, boat building, and marine transportation.

To determine what the current status and needs are for Delaware’s traditional maritime communities, the University of Delaware’s Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative is coordinating the Working Waterfronts Initiative.

The objectives of the program are:

  • Assess the prevailing socioeconomic conditions of Delaware’s working waterfronts; this includes provision of a baseline study and characterizing the existing state of these communities, which will assist in identifying the main areas of concern.
  • Analyze the impacts of the prevailing environmental conditions on the socioeconomic structure of the study sites.
  • Identify business infrastructure needs
  • Develop a set of guidelines and/or recommendations for establishing viable waterfront communities

Bowers Beach, a village of about 335 on the Delaware Bay in Kent County, was the first waterfront town to participate in the Working Waterfronts initiative. That report is included below.

In July 2015, Leipsic town leaders accepted the report on their community and invited SCCI to assist the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission with the update of its Comprehensive Plan, to include recommendations contained in the summary report.

Other coastal towns that Delaware Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative will be working with are Little Creek and Slaughter Beach.


PDF icon Leipsic Working Waterfronts-sm.pdf2. 86 MB

PDF icon bowers_summary_report.pdf 426.21 KB