TITLE 7

Conservation

Public Lands, Parks and Memorials

CHAPTER 45. PUBLIC LANDS


All general warrants for locating vacant land without specification, which were not located by survey prior to January 23, 1843, are vacated and void; and all warrants for locating land issued by any recorder since January 11, 1798, are illegal and void.

Code 1852, § 11; Code 1915, § 11; Code 1935, § 11; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4501.;

All cessions of public land, which have been made to the United States for public purposes, are recognized and ratified according to the terms thereof.

Code 1852, § 14; Code 1915, § 14; Code 1935, § 14; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4504.;

All grants of public land made shall be located and paid for within 1 year from the grant, or they shall be void.

Code 1852, § 15; Code 1915, § 15; Code 1935, § 15; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4505.;

(a) The public lands of this State, as ascertained in regard to location, surveyed and plotted under the supervision and direction of the Public Lands Commission, created in accordance with Chapter 5, Volume 27, Laws of Delaware, shall be under the supervision and control of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control which Department may care for the public lands. All powers given to said Public Lands Commission shall be exercised by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

(b) It shall be unlawful to place, dump or throw rubbish, garbage, refuse, trash or other debris of any kind within any public beach of this State, except in such receptacles as are provided for such purpose. Whoever violates this provision shall be fined not less than $50 nor more than $100, together with costs of prosecution, and in default of payment of the fine and costs shall be subject to § 4105 of Title 11.

All law-enforcement agencies, to include Environmental Protection Officers of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, shall have equal authority to enforce this section. Justices of the peace shall have jurisdiction of offenses under this section.

36 Del. Laws, c. 2, § 1; Code 1935, § 5742; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4506; 57 Del. Laws, c. 617; 59 Del. Laws, c. 417, § 1.;

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control may survey such of the public lands that have not been surveyed, plotted and recorded in the office of the recorder of deeds in the county in which any such lands may lie; and may survey and lay off such public highways through any such lands as it deems advisable and for the public good.

36 Del. Laws, c. 2, § 2; Code 1935, § 5743; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4507; 57 Del. Laws, c. 617.;

(a) The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control may supervise the sale of any material, product or thing which grows or may be grown upon any public lands; divide the public lands into tracts of 50 acres, or less; and sell such tracts, or any part thereof, as deemed advisable to sell.

(b) Any public land sold shall be sold only at public auction after at least 10 days prior public notice. Such public notice shall be given in all 3 counties of this State. Notice in each county shall be given in the same manner required for county tax sales in each respective county, including publication and posting of handbills. Any land so sold shall be sold only to the highest bidder at the sale for the amount of that highest bid.

36 Del. Laws, c. 2, § 2; Code 1935, § 5743; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4508; 50 Del. Laws, c. 644; 57 Del. Laws, c. 617.;

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, together with the Governor of this State, may execute and deliver a good and sufficient deed to any part of the public lands of this State, and may place upon the sale of such lands a restriction requiring the expenditure by any person purchasing the same of a certain amount of money upon any tract sold to them, or may require any other conditions which the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control deems advisable for the public good.

36 Del. Laws, c. 2, § 4; Code 1935, § 5745; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4509; 57 Del. Laws, c. 617.;

Whoever purchases any of the public lands under any restriction or condition imposed by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and fails for a period of 5 years to comply with the restrictions or conditions mentioned in the deed of grant from the Department, forfeits such lands to the State, and the title to such lands shall thereafter rest in the State.

36 Del. Laws, c. 2, § 4; Code 1935, § 5745; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4510; 57 Del. Laws, c. 617.;

(a) The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control may make improvements to and on any public lands of this State and may expend any sums appropriated therefor on such lands.

(b) The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control may lease or grant concessions for any such improvements.

(c) All funds collected from such rentals or concessions shall be treated in the same manner as income received from public lands as provided in § 4515 of this title.

Code 1935, § 5746B; 46 Del. Laws, c. 233, § 1; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4511; 57 Del. Laws, c. 617.;

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control together with the Governor of this State, may execute and deliver, in proper form, a lease of any part of the public lands of this State, which public lands are under the supervision and control of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control by virtue of this chapter. The demise and lease of such lands may be upon such conditions and for such rentals as the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control deems advisable for the public good. Whoever leases any of the lands under any restrictions or conditions of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and fails to comply with the restrictions or conditions mentioned in the lease from the Department forfeits the leasehold interest granted by the lease.

Code 1935, § 5746A; 45 Del. Laws, c. 272, § 1; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4512; 57 Del. Laws, c. 617.;

The power granted to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to lease the public lands shall include the right of the Department, together with the Governor of this State, to execute and deliver, in proper form, a lease for the exclusive right of mining, exploring by geophysical and other methods, and operating for and producing therefrom, oil, gas, casing head gas, casing head gasoline, laying pipelines, telephone and telegraph lines and building tanks, power stations, gasoline plants, ponds and roadways, and the exclusive right of injecting water, brine and other fluids into the subsurface strata of the public lands so demised.

Code 1935, § 5746A; 45 Del. Laws, c. 272, § 1; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4513; 57 Del. Laws, c. 617.;

All funds received as rent in connection with the leasing of public lands under §§ 4510 and 4511 of this title shall be payable to the State Treasurer and kept by him or her in a special account known as the "Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Public Lands Account," and such funds shall not become a part of the General Fund of the State except as hereinafter provided. The Department may expend money payable out of the special account for the protection, improvement or restoration of lands demised or of lands adjacent to any public lands demised. Any balance remaining from the rentals of any public land in the special account and unencumbered at the end of any fiscal year reverts to the General Fund. Such funds shall not be encumbered for any purpose whatsoever except for the purposes hereinabove provided.

Code 1935, § 5746A; 45 Del. Laws, c. 272, § 1; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4514; 57 Del. Laws, c. 617; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as authorizing or empowering the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to lease any land which is used as an oyster plantation, oyster bed or oyster bottom, nor shall the Department demise any land, the use of which would affect any adjacent oyster plantation, bed or bottom in the planting, propagation, catching or taking of oysters.

Code 1935, § 5746A; 45 Del. Laws, c. 272, § 1; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4515; 57 Del. Laws, c. 617.;

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control may construct any roads leading to or through any public lands which are under the supervision and control of the Department; may make plans and specifications for the construction of such roads and secure bids for the construction of the same; may enter into contracts for the construction of such roads as are deemed wise; and may pay the costs of the plans, specifications and construction work incident to the building of such roads out of any moneys to the credit of the Department in the State Treasury.

36 Del. Laws, c. 2, § 3; Code 1935, § 5744; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4516; 57 Del. Laws, c. 617.;

In order that the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control may carry out this chapter, all moneys, other than appropriated by the General Assembly, realized from the care and supervision of public lands of this State shall be deposited with the State Treasurer for the use of the Department in carrying out this chapter.

36 Del. Laws, c. 2, § 5; Code 1935, § 5746; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4517; 57 Del. Laws, c. 617.;

No public money shall be expended under this chapter on any roads leading to or through any public lands of this State with privately owned lands abutting thereon unless and until the owners of the abutting lands have reached or entered into an agreement with the Department as to whether or not a contribution toward the cost of such roads shall be made by said owner of such lands.

36 Del. Laws, c. 2, § 5; Code 1935, § 5746; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4518.;

(a) Nothing contained in this chapter shall prohibit or limit in any way the power and authority granted unto the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to develop, establish and maintain state parks on the public lands of the State in Sussex County bordering on the Atlantic Ocean as such power and authority is set forth in Chapter 47 of this title.

(b) Anything contained in this chapter to the contrary notwithstanding, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control shall not convey, lease or extend or renew any lease of lands upon which the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has established a state park, except with the approval of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

Code 1935, § 5746A; 47 Del. Laws, c. 287, § 1; 7 Del. C. 1953, § 4519; 57 Del. Laws, c. 617; 57 Del. Laws, c. 739, § 121.;

(a) All lands to which this State directly or indirectly holds title, whether legal, equitable or both, shall be deemed public lands within the meaning of this chapter, except lands purchased or held by the State Housing Department for improvement and/or redevelopment and resale.

(b) The State Highway Department shall not exercise any power vested in it by this chapter over public lands which are under the supervision and control of any other agency of this State, without first obtaining the consent of such agency, any other section of this chapter to the contrary notwithstanding, except that nothing in this section shall affect the power of condemnation held by the State Highway Department. Except as limited by subsection (c) of this section, every agency of this State may exercise as before its authority over public lands under its supervision and control.

(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the Division of Highways and Transportation, its successor or successors from selling, transferring, conveying, trading or leasing lands which it no longer needs for highway purposes as is provided in §§ 137, 175 and 608(g) [repealed] of Title 17.

(d) No public lands, except as hereinabove set forth and except lands or buildings for which title is held by a reorganized school district, shall be transferred or conveyed to or otherwise placed under the control of any person or persons, state, county, or municipality or any governmental agency, whether foreign or domestic, having the power to sell or lease such lands unless the General Assembly specifically approves the same and unless done in conformity with the requirements of this chapter.

7 Del. C. 1953, § 4520; 57 Del. Laws, c. 332, § 1; 58 Del. Laws, c. 246; 63 Del. Laws, c. 209, § 1.;

No title or other interest in real property belonging to the State shall be acquired by adverse possession, presumed grant or any means other than by a deed or conveyance or other written instrument of transfer executed by a duly authorized official of the State pursuant to state law.

63 Del. Laws, c. 401, § 1.;

(a) Any person who asserts a claim to any interest in any part of the public lands of the State for which a plot or description has been recorded with the Recorder of Deeds in and for the county in which the lands are situate shall, if the State is successful in defeating such claim or any part thereof through any judicial proceeding, be liable for all costs and expenses of the State incurred in defeating the claim or any part thereof, including, without limitation, investigative costs, administrative costs, salaries of state employees, surveying costs, engineering costs, title search fees, attorneys' fees of privately retained counsel and attorneys of the Department of Justice, consultant fees and contract costs; provided however, that such cost and expense recovery should not be provided if the claim has substantial merit.

(b) For purposes of this section, the term "person" shall include any individual, group of individuals, firm, association, partnership, company, corporation, joint-venture, trust, estate or other legal entity. Any liability for costs and expenses imposed under this section on any corporation shall also be imposed jointly and severally on the officers and directors of such corporation in their individual capacities.

(c) In order to recover costs and expenses under this section, the State shall, within 45 days of the entry of the final order or judgment, file a petition with the court which exercised jurisdiction over the matter, which petition shall set forth a statement of the costs and expenses incurred by the State.

66 Del. Laws, c. 239, § 1.;

Notwithstanding any provision of this chapter to the contrary, no state park, or any part thereof, open space as defined in § 7504 of this title, or other area acquired primarily for recreational use, shall be rezoned, neither shall there be a change in the use of any such lands requiring a variance or subdivision approval, except upon 45 days prior notice to all elected members of the General Assembly in whose district such lands, or any part thereof, lie.

72 Del. Laws, c. 156, § 3.;