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EHEI Category: Enhancing the Environment for Human Activities

Delaware: Lightship Overfalls at Lewes Canalfront Park

Photo of ship at dock.
The project restored and revitalized the Lightship Overfalls and the surrounding area.
(Courtesy of the Overfalls Foundation)

Since 2004, the Overfalls Foundation has leveraged private and public funds to protect the Overfalls Lightship, a historic ship docked in Lewes, Delaware, and provided a continuation to an adjacent waterfront park. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1988, the ship required extensive upgrades after many years of exposure to the elements. Preserving the ship and its history became the primary mission of the Overfalls Foundation, established in 1999. As the area surrounding the ship provided limited recreational opportunities prior to the renovation work, the Overfalls Foundation set forth to rehabilitate the ship and revitalize their immediately surrounding area to encourage more visitors and create a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly environment.

With the Overfalls Foundation in place and its mission set, Overfalls Lightship and its surrounding area received new attention. The Foundation's first initiative was to develop a comprehensive plan to improve the ship's structure, the area owned by the Foundation adjacent to the Lewes Canalfront Park, and the streets accessing this area. This comprehensive plan complemented the recent improvements to the Lewes Canalfront Park. Changes included additions to the network of trails that provide routes both within the park and along the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal intracoastal waterway and local connections to the adjacent Pilottown Road and downtown Lewes, a popular tourist destination.

In 2009, the Overfalls Foundation received additional support for the construction of a bulkheaded slip in the form of $400,000 of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. This ARRA funding, when combined with funds that the Overfalls Foundation had raised previously, allowed the Foundation to restore and repair the Overfalls Lightship and build a permanent berth for the ship. The ARRA funds were used for portions of the project to help reduce highway runoff water pollution and erosion.

Following the construction of the permanent berth, the Foundation completed landscaping to integrate the grounds adjacent to the ship with the Lewes Canalfront Park. Now the centerpiece of Lewes' maritime history, the ship was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2011. The Overfalls Foundation's efforts in restoring the Overfalls Lightship and its continuation of the revitalization initiated by the construction of the Lewes Canalfront Park have enhanced the livability and sustainability of the Lewes community, and will continue to educate an ever-growing number of visitors in the future.

For more information, contact Tracy Mulveny, Overfalls Foundation, at

Photo of ship at dock.
The ship was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2011.
(Courtesy of the Overfalls Foundation)
Updated: 11/15/2012
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