Out and About in Delaware's State Parks
|by Stephen Schilly|
|Let the Fun Begin! It's hard to believe Spring is racing by so quickly! This issue of Letters welcomes Memorial Day, the unofficial start to the summer season. Park staff have been working hard to get our facilities in tip-top shape. Things are looking great, but there is still plenty to do. But, ready or not, the holiday is here! Summer has "unofficially" arrived...let the fun begin!
Making the Connection As many of you know, December 4 marked the grand opening of the "Junction and Breakwater Trail." Located in Cape Henlopen State Park on the west-side of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, the trail was designed to one day serve as a pedestrian and bicycle connection between the two resort communities. The pathway opened in December was the "middle" section consisting of 3.5 miles of trail from near West Rehoboth northward past Wolfe Neck Road. I am happy to report that the connection to Rehoboth is now complete! A new section of trail has been installed joining the pathway to Hebron Road in West Rehoboth. This connection along the border of the community provides bikers and hikers from the Rehoboth area access to the trail without going out onto Route 1. For other visitors interested in using the trail, a 56-car parking facility is available adjacent to the historic Wolfe House on Wolfe Neck Road. The trail offers exceptional views across tidal marshes and upland forests in the coastal area. Its level surface makes the trail easily accessible for everyone.
Pavilion Update The Division of Parks and Recreation continues planning for a new picnic pavilion at the north-end of the Gordons Pond parking lot. This new structure will be similar in design to the pavilion located adjacent to the fishing pier on the Lewes-side of the park. The pavilion will give beachgoers a place to get out of the sun and eat their meals in comfort. It will include tables, grills and other amenities and will be available to rent for parties and outdoor functions. At this time, plans are essentially complete and the project will be put out to bid. If all goes well, construction should take place this summer.
Cape Henlopen...for the Birds! A sure sign that Spring has arrived is the annual migration of shorebirds along the Atlantic coast. The Point of Cape Henlopen has always served as a critical stopping point on the arduous journey of these international travelers. Numerous species, including red knots, sanderlings, ruddy turnstones, and semipalmated sandpipers take advantage of this special area. These birds often travel non-stop, thousands of miles to reach the Point. They time their arrival in May to coincide with horseshoe crab spawning. The eggs laid by this species serves as a high protein diet which helps the birds replace fat reserves they depleted through their long migration. Recognizing the critical importance of the Point in the life cycle of these birds, the Division instituted a policy which closes the area to pedestrian and vehicular traffic from March 1 through September each year. This allows the birds to migrate, feed and nest in this environmentally sensitive area without disturbance from people.
One very important avian visitor to Cape Henlopen is the Piping Plover. This once common beachnesting species has declined drastically in numbers in recent decades. The situation became so severe that in 1986 the species was declared "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. There are many reasons the species has declined including development of essential coastal habitat, human and pet disturbance of nesting areas, excessive stormtides, and predation by raccoons, foxes and seagulls. In order to help this species, our Division has worked closely with other state and federal agencies to protect this species when it nests on our state park beaches. Protection efforts since the late 1980s have met with varying degrees of success. However, efforts in 2003 resulted in 17 plover chicks reaching the fledgling stage...our highest number ever! At this time, I'm happy to report we already have four Piping Plover nests in Cape Henlopen. Two nests are located at both the Point and at Gordons Pond. Both areas will remain closed to the pedestrian and vehicular access. If all goes well, the eggs will hatch in 2530 days. It then takes an additional 25-30 days before chicks can fly and are considered fledged. We appreciate the public's cooperation in staying out of these restricted areas.
Cottages in Summer of 2004 Construction is nearly completed on the new rental cottages at Delaware Seashore State Park. The complex will include twelve rental units within yards of the Indian River Inlet. These cottages offer exceptional views of the inland bays and unparalleled access to inlet. Each unit features a fireplace, two bedrooms, a loft, a full kitchen, bathroom, screened porch, and living and dining areas. Each cottage will sleep up to six people. In season rentals are by the week Off-season rentals will require a two-day minimum stay on weekends and a three-day minimum stay on holidays. The grand opening of the cottages is June 26. Check our web site at www.destateparks.com for information or call 1-877-98-PARKS to make reservation!
Plants for a Livable Delaware In a recent article, I discussed the many problems facing Delaware in dealing with the impact of exotic "invasive" species in our natural habitats. It is not an exaggeration to say our state is under siege by these aggressive foreign invaders. A careful inspection of most forests in Delaware reveals the sad reality of the situation. Many exotic plants have escaped the confines of the landscape beds around our homes and businesses and have established themselves into the surrounding open space. Native plants and the creatures that depend on them for survival are quickly finding themselves displaced in their native habitats. In many cases, the damage has already been done. It will take years of effort to simply try to control the numerous invasive species currently found in our natural areas. Without intervention we could lose many of the native species from our landscapes. What can you do to help? First and foremost, become educated about the plants you use to landscape you yard. Avoid using exotic species that have aggressive characteristics. Plant native species whenever possible. A terrific new booklet called "Plants for a Livable Delaware" has been produced to help homeowners who would like to landscape more responsibly. This guide provides specific information on which plants to avoid adding to the landscape, while providing numerous suitable native alternatives. Every gardener and homeowner should make an effort to pick up this helpful tool. Copies of the booklet are available at park offices and nature centers.
Stephen Schilly is Park Operations Administrator for the Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 14 No.5 May 21, 2004.