a bridge over a body of water

WIIN to work with Arnett Muldrow on river plan

Terry RogersBusiness, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

a bridge over a body of water

Arnett & Muldrow is working with WIIN to create a branding and marketing plan for Slaughter Beach and Milford that capitalizes on the Mispillion River

The Waterways Infrastructure and Investment Network (WIIN) a coalition created between Slaughter Beach and the City of Milford to establish economic benefits surrounding the Mispillion River, Delaware Bay and tributaries has hired Arnett Muldrow to help them create branding and marketing strategy. The first of several focus groups were held recently in the City of Milford conference room, allowing stakeholders the opportunity to provide input into the plan.

“What we heard loud and clear when we met with Kent County Tourism yesterday was that because Milford has the majority of accommodations in Kent County, they provide an interesting experience or opportunity,” Ben Muldrow, a partner in Arnett Muldrow said. “We want people who are moving to Milford to be in love with it. We don’t want people moving into Milford to be in love with the idea, but to be grounded here.”

City Manager Mark Whitfield explained that the city was hoping to create a greenway that would extend to Herring Branch and Deep Branch that would include a walking and bicycle trail. The industrial complex on Canterbury Road would also include walking and bicycle trails. There is currently a bicycle path that extends in front of Redner’s and stretches to the Solid Waste Authority on Route 113 and there are other paths planned near Silicato Boulevard as well. Muldrow asked if there had been any discussion in a use for the former police station when the new one was completed.

“I think there are two trains of thought,” Whitfield said. “One is ot preserve the building and utilize it for tourism, like the Chamber or the Delaware Nature Center who could use it as an educational building. The other train of thought would be for redevelopment. I think the druthers are to salvage the building, but it all comes down to what is most cost effective. That being said, the building has a number of problems and challenges for anyone who wants to have it renovated. It’s not ADA compliant.”

Muldrow asked if the city was focused on creating an economy around the natural resources in the town, questioning whether the town had a focus for encouraging tourism. Whitfield stated that they did not have a focus at the present time. Muldrow felt that a focus on the river would improve tourism in the town.

“We need access to downtown and we need a clean river,” Councilman Mike Boyle said. “Many obstacles, fallen trees. Once you make it habitable again and bring people in town with docking, you encourage people to get out and walk around and see what we have to offer. There is no egress or access between Milford and Slaughter Beach. Let’s make it adequately clean.”

Muldrow informed the group that he had just learned the day before that the Army Corps of Engineers received funding to dredge rivers and that $400,000 had been allotted for the Mispillion. In addition, over $100 million in additional funding may be available that would not only include dredging but an education program that could help prevent the river from filling in as quickly. In addition, Jim Pappas, Resilience Officer at DelDOT, informed members of the coalition that they did plan to repair the bridge. An engineer was currently working on designs and, pending supply chain issues, they hoped to begin work on the bridge in the fall. Whitfield pointed out that Councilman Jason James wanted to look at a connection on the Riverwalk through the Lofland property. Whitfield stated that boaters tend to have a fair amount of money and Dr. Jennifer Egan, Program Manager in Environmental Economics and Conservation Finance at the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center, commented that boaters also enjoy going out to eat and drink.

“I think one of the problems was to dredge it and continue maintenance for a marina,” Councilman Dan Marabello said. “The other thing I think is important, you’re talking about the river but you need the beautification to connect. I think we need to work in tandem with beautification.”

Whitfield pointed out that the city currently had several streetscape projects planned to beautify downtown. The projects would be on Park Avenue, Denny’s Row and Southwest Front Street. Dr. Egan suggested using volunteers to perform those duties, similar to what they do in Lewes and Rehoboth. Muldrow asked what things downtown the coalition really wanted to see, and the Vineyard Shipyard was mentioned.

“Well, so obviously, I mean, the shipyard as a as an experience on the river is important. I think that we’re going to definitely stop short of making a purchase versus don’t purchase kind of combat. I think there’s a lot of parts to that. There are a lot of ways that you can dissect,” Muldrow said. “We do know that right now, we’ve got this massive Riverwalk and this property is part of the connectivity of the Riverwalk. It is one of the community’s proudest origin stories that has been unable to be interpreted. So, there’s importance there, but then there’s a there’s a lot of kind of questions about Acquisition Management. I think in a perfect world if I was waving a magic wand, yeah, I’d love to have that open community that helps to create additional access and experiences for people on a historic vessel that was built in Milford and ride the Mispillion River. I would also love for that to be seen as a catalyst to drive public sector development directly to the southern and north across the river from it like I would love to see that but also think that anytime somebody does something that becomes a little bit more complex.”

Muldrow felt that using tax funds to purchase the property may not be the best option, especially since it appeared the task force planned for a non-profit to run the property once it was purchased. He agreed that the shipyard needed to be included in the plan.

“We will not fully capitalize on this Riverwalk without having access of connecting the Riverwalk through the Lofland property, and while when you have a boat yard right there, we’re talking about launching kayaks or whatever have you, a destination for people to have a focal point to attract to beautification,” Councilman James said. “We don’t have to own it. We’ve been through this conversation many, many, many times about ownership, partnership, public private partnership, whatever the form that it takes, of having access and utilization of that. The city just doesn’t have to own it. But maybe we need to really focus on that. I don’t think we just talk around it and think if we’re going to fully capitalize on this whole Riverwalk watershed without paying attention to that property. I feel very strongly about that.”

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