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I like to think of the coastal region as a place of peace and serenity during the summer months. Days are spent relaxing on the beach and nights consist of dining al fresco either at home or at local restaurants, with a libation or two before, during, and/or after the meal. 

While worthy of an occasional text, the modern-day equivalent of a penny postcard, sent to friends and relatives, the daily events that comprise this summer lifestyle are hardly what one would call “newsworthy.”    

Therefore, imagine my surprise to see in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal, of all places, an article titled “Beach Patrol Draws a Line in the Sand: No More Tents,” and discovering that the patrol in question is the one assigned to Rehoboth Beach.    

It seems that large canopy tents, often strung together, were causing problems of public safety and aesthetics. 

In addition to blocking the view of lifeguards, these opaque canvas coverings were supposedly housing such beach amenities as changing rooms, gas grills and portable toilets. There even was suspicion of clandestine alcohol consumption. 

The only thing of which these beach campers were not accused was having their mail forwarded to their tents. 

In response, the Rehoboth Beach Commissioners passed an ordinance limiting the size, height and proximity of those tents. Since then, unsuspecting vacationers arriving on the beach with their oversized tents have fueled one of the largest and longest running tent sales in the history of the Delmarva Peninsula.  

Unfortunately, things have been no more serene to the north at Lewes beach. There, after years of benign neglect, the state fire marshal suddenly decided to enforce the prohibition against private citizens setting off fireworks.   

Over the years, the Fourth of July pyrotechnic display on the beach had grown in popularity to the point where the Snack Shack stayed open for the evening festivities and people were willingly paying $10 to leave their cars in the parking lots of businesses located across the street from the beach. 

Employing techniques that might be described as marshal law (not to be confused with martial law), the fire marshal, in collusion with the newly vigilant (not to be confused with vigilante) city government, placed large digital warning signs on the roads, made known that fireworks would be confiscated, and, on the night in question, strategically placed patrol cars outside the beach parking areas to “educate” those entering. 

Curiously, DelDOT chose this time to erect an oversized 75-foot high camera pole at the foot of the canal bridge on Savannah Road, the most direct route to the beach. 

Ostensibly, the camera was intended to monitor traffic and flooding conditions.   

One doesn’t have to be employed by the CIA to realize that this eye in the sky was also capable of observing Lewes beach and any fireworks thereon. 

I’m not a big believer in conspiracy theories, but even I find something troubling in the fact that by July 14, a mere 10 days after the Fourth, a spokesperson for DelDOT announced that the pole would be coming down.  Coincidence?  I think not. 

For better or worse, these measures succeeded, only a few fireworks were launched, a “handful” confiscated, and the summer night sky remained relatively undisturbed, although it lacked the patriotic color of recent years. 

Further south, the residents of Ocean City, Maryland, were dealing with their own contretemps. 

Noting that the state’s constitution declares that the law “cannot give preferential treatment on the basis of sex or gender,” a forward-looking Eastern Shore woman requested that she be allowed to sunbathe and cavort topless on the beach, just like her male counterparts. 

The reaction from the good people of Ocean City was swift and decisive, resulting in a City Council ordinance banning nudity on the beach. The beach patrol issued a detailed policy regarding the handling of scofflaws. 

Part of that policy recommended requesting police assistance “if at any time the situation appears to become physical.” 

Consider this a cautionary tale. While Ocean City may be beyond this paper's circulation area, it is a mere stone’s throw (or a bikini bra toss) from Fenwick Island. 

Mike Berger is a freelance writer and retired university administrator with a home in Lewes. Contact him at edadvice@comcast.net.   

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