I See You, Rehoboth, in All Your Greenery
“The morning star always gets wonderful bright the minute before it has to go.” Thornton Wilder, Our Town
The early sunrise shimmers off the Atlantic Ocean like a sea of diamonds waiting to be mined. A tiny sand crab pokes its head above the retreating surf wondering who is disturbing his secret home. The boardwalk is alive with joggers, bicyclists, dogwalkers, and strollers beginning their morning rituals. The pointed leaves of the yucca plant and glimmering goldenrod are scatted along the sides of the walkway. The dunes are waking up, and beach grass waves hello to a new day. I see you, Rehoboth.
The sun climbs higher in the cloudless, ever so blue sky. Honey locust, Japanese zelkova, and willow oak line Rehoboth Avenue and offer respite during the heat of the day, while kids enjoy ice cream cones under their branches. The perfectly placed bandstand at the avenue’s end highlights its importance. An ocean breeze carries its music down the avenue.
The smell of pizza, fries, and caramel corn wafts in the heavy, humid air. Friends scurry back and forth along gracious sidewalks, dotted with colorful banners, benches, and other beachgoers. If you’re not careful, seagulls steal your fries and then squawk for more. I see you, Rehoboth.
On Baltimore Avenue, the shops are abuzz with activity. CAMP Rehoboth’s doors are open, embracing visitors and welcoming members to our town. The street is full of splendor with colorful container plantings, blooming hydrangeas, and creeping St. John’s wort filling up shallow yet beautiful landscaped beds. Coastal leucothoe, inkberry, and even a few shrubby palms can be seen along the street adding year-round interest to the storefronts.
Restaurant and bar patrons spill out onto open-air patios, as laughter and conversation cascade down the street. As evening approaches, the sun slips behind the Rehoboth Beach water tower and streetlights shine on the still bustling downtown, reminding us we are in the nation’s summer (and fall, winter, spring) capital. I see you, Rehoboth.
Approaching the canal, majestic oaks and noble pine trees begin to fill the open spaces between homes. Hollies, dogwoods, and magnolias are strewn among them. Cherry trees on Bayard Avenue burst into hues of pink in spring. Sycamores stand like soldiers on Scarborough Avenue casting dappled shade onto bicyclists and joggers below.
Our town is filled with wonder and beauty. Grove Park with its magnificent oaks and maples, and on Tuesdays, the farmers market below their canopy offers a taste of local produce and other delicious treats. Oakleaf hydrangeas, Russian sage, feather reed grass, and hornbeams mesmerize passersby at Cranberry Park, paying tribute to our sister city in Italy. Reflections of charming gazeboes as well as the beautifully lit bridge play on the still waters of Silver Lake. The stars and moon above cast an iridescent glow across its mirrored surface. I see you, Rehoboth.
One of the take-aways from the play, Our Town, is that some of the most important aspects of life are found in the mundane. The everyday occurrences, things that pass us by unobserved or taken for granted, will be dwelled upon later in life. This happens with every generation, evident by the resounding, “back in my day” chant repeated and repeated.
I often hear complaints and criticisms of certain aspects of our town without people offering solutions. Rarely do I see people articulate what makes Rehoboth a special place; they just know that they enjoy themselves here.
This article took a slightly different turn than when I first started writing it, but I feel it’s important for me to comment. In order for future generations to be able to say “back in my day,” we must examine our present surroundings, recognize what makes them special, and enhance them and our experience while progressing forward.
The inclusion of nature, or what has come to be called “green infrastructure,” is critical. We need healthy street trees, pocket parks, planted medians, multi-use trails which connect open spaces, protective dunes, stormwater management devices disguised as bioswales, raingardens, and the like. Nature plays a more important role than anyone can imagine, in both sustaining and nurturing us.
Rehoboth Beach is one of the few coastal towns which can attract visitors with its seaside attractions, award-winning restaurants, and retail splendor while maintaining its laid-back beach attitude and hometown charm. Nature is paramount in that experience. Next time you walk from the beach to the canal on Rehoboth Avenue, or bike from Silver Lake to North Shores, I encourage you to slow down, smell the roses, and appreciate the mundane in our greenery and natural resources. ▼
Eric W. Wahl, RLA is a landscape architect at Element Design Group and president of the Delaware Native Plant Society.