Out and About in Delaware's State Parks
|by Stephen Schilly|
|Spring Fever The change of season always serves as a subtle reminder to me that "time marches on." While I may not enjoy the reminder I am getting older, it always thrills me to welcome the arrival of spring. There is something about the season that I find very meaningful. There's a sense of new beginnings. The many signs of Mother Nature "waking up" serve as a promise of wonderful things to come. That was especially evident to me on a recent visit to Cape Henlopen where I found myself out on the Junction Breakwater Trail. It was a beautiful, sunny day with a steady cool breeze that carried the "earthy" smell of warming soil. Everywhere I looked, I could see signs of the new season. I spotted a large flock of robins hunting for their next meal along the edge of a nearby farm field. Trees all around me had a reddish cast from buds just waiting to burst in a profusion of flowers and foliage. A closer inspection along the trail revealed mosses and grasses showing significant new growth. While all these things reminded me of spring, the surest sign of all was a lone patch of daffodils I discovered in full bloom. While the flowers seemed out of place along the trail, their bold color on the still barren landscape made it clear spring had indeed arrived. I couldn't have been happier!
Damage Done Since opening, the Junction and Breakwater Trail has proven to be a very popular year-round facility for park visitors. Whenever the weather is nice, you can be sure people are out in force to "hit the trail." In an effort to continue improving the 3.4 mile facility, this past winter Division staff installed a number of very nice wooden benches. These benches were purchased to accommodate visitors who needed a convenient place to stop and rest when using the trail. On my recent visit, I passed a couple of the new benches on my journey. They looked great and I remember thinking what a great asset they would be in the warmer months to come. It was quite a shock when I came upon what should have been the site of the third bench. All that was left was a couple of broken boards and several bent metal stakes. On closer inspection, I discovered the battered remains of the bench tossed off in the woods. Some individuals had obviously worked overtime to wreak their destruction. There was virtually nothing left which could be salvaged from the bench. I must admit it made me angry and frustrated to see such senseless destruction. It's a shame that everyone has to suffer because of the irresponsible actions of others. We encourage all park visitors to help us protect our facilities. If you happen to see vandalism taking place, please do not hesitate to notify park staff. Your assistance is appreciated!
Cape Henlopen Special Event: Fort Milesthe War Years On April 30 and May 1, Cape Henlopen State Park will host a very special event "Fort Miles: the War Years." This event serves as an unveiling of the new living history museum in the park which will focus on coastal defense and the Delaware home front in World War II. Reenactors from throughout the region will be participating in demonstrations and activities over the two day event. Guided tours will be given through Battery 519a 12-inch gun battery currently undergoing restoration. A number of special programs will occur during the day including a presentation by actual veterans once stationed at Fort Miles. A special evening program will feature a "USO Dance" in the Fort Miles recreation hall. The dance will include live big band music along with reenactors outfitted in the military attire from the period. It will be a special event you will not want to miss! For information concerning program schedules and event fees, contact the Seaside Nature Center at 302-645-6852.
Park Explorations: Bellevue Continuing our exploration of Delaware State Parks, the next stop on our journey is Bellevue. Located off I-95 just north of the City of Wilmington, the park serves as a beautiful oasis amid the surrounding urban development. The property which became a state park in 1976 was originally owned by William H. du Pont, Jr. As with other du Pont family estates, the grounds feature numerous attractions including a mansion, tennis courts, equestrian stables,
1-1/8 mile track, formal gardens and a pond. Everywhere you look you get a sense of the former grandeur of this picturesque property. Now totaling 328 acres, the park has adapted the historic facilities to provide wonderful recreational activities for visitors. Trails circle the park for use by hikers, bikers and equestrian riders. The former horse track has become a popular fitness track for walkers and joggers. Picnic pavilions are situated adjacent to the pond which lies within the track. Nearby playground facilities are a popular destination for many families. For tennis enthusiasts, the outdoor clay courts are a major attraction. The historic potting shed has been converted into the Bellevue Arts Center which frequently hosts exhibits and classes. The outdoor bandstage is a popular summer setting featuring concerts and cultural activities. Amid all these wonderful facilities, the true focal point of the park remains Bellevue Hall. This stately mansion modeled after Mr. du Pont's boyhood home at Montpelier now serves as a popular site for group meetings and wedding celebrations. It is a wonderful reminder of a bygone era. A stroll through the surrounding formal gardens is a must for all park visitors. There is no better way to spend a spring or summer day!
Nature's Best Bets
If you are looking for fun and exciting ways to spend your spare time, why not check out the Seaside Nature Center at Cape Henlopen State Park? The Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the year. Staff provides programs designed for individuals and families. A highlight of any visit is viewing the five 1000-gallon aquariums that feature different aquatic habitats. You'll be glad you took the time to explore this exciting facility.
Wisteria Wander Sunday, April 17, 11 a.m. On the Seaside Interpretive Trail, a glorious spring bloomer lies along the path. Learn about this once-treasured plant in Lewes history and about the impact it has on native plant species today.
Full Moon Hikes Sunday, April 24, 8 p.m. Hike by the light of a full or new moon to experience the beauty of Cape Henlopen after dusk. We'll discuss some facts and lore associated with the moon. Pre-registration is required by calling (302)645-6852. The program costs $3.50 per person and is limited to 25 participants.
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. 15, No. 3 April 8, 2005