Out and About in Delaware's State Parks
|by Stephen Schilly|
|Loving Every Minute It's a crazy, hectic, mixed-up world we live in. Everything is rush, rush, rush! Who takes the time to stop and appreciate the special things around us? How can we when we're all so busy moving on to the next "important" thing? I'm just as guilty as the next person of getting caught up in the business of everyday existence. My partner, Bob, and I moved to Rehoboth five years ago to be close to the beaches we loved. It was a great irony for us that last summer we failed to spend a single day on a local beach! This year we resolved things would be different. This past weekend, we made it a point to take the time to head out to Gordons Pond. Are we ever glad we did! We arrived mid-morning on what promised to be a beautiful sunny day. Coming over the pedestrian crossing, the sand dunes and snow fencing served as the perfect "picture frame" for our first view of the ocean...the sight of a dolphin swimming in the surf! It was an inspiring sight and a great way to be welcomed back to our favorite beach. Numerous sunbathers had arrived ahead of us and had already staked out their piece of beach real estate. Fortunately, there was plenty of room for everyone to spread out and get comfortable. Bob and I set up near the water and quickly set about soaking up the sun. The warmth of the day and the rhythmic sound of the waves quickly lulled us into complete relaxation. As the hours went by, the beach became increasingly crowded. Friends and acquaintances set up nearby giving us a chance to catch up on old times. All around us, children were playing with absolute joy and abandon in the surf. The cold water was not enough to discourage their determination to get wet. The diversity of families around us was a sight to behold. Everyone was having a great time respecting one another and enjoying the incredible natural resources around them. It was a reminder to me about what really is important in life. This was "quality time" in an amazingly beautiful setting. I couldn't believe Bob and I missed an entire summer of such experiences. I can assure we won't make that mistake again!
Plover Update...Peril in the Surf In recent articles, I have mentioned the Department of Natural Resources' on-going efforts to protect piping plovers. This beachnesting species of shorebird has been listed as "threatened" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife since the late 1980s. The nesting requirements of this shy species are very specific and unfortunately correspond to the places people like to recreate along the coast. As a result, the only documented nesting in Delaware in the past two decades has been on state park beaches. A tremendous amount of staff and volunteer time has been devoted over the years to help this troubled species. Despite our best efforts, it has been difficult to make significant progress. This year, eight pairs of birds have attempted to establish nests at Cape Henlopen State Park.
Unfortunately, the going has been very rough for the birds. Some nests have fallen prey to other species before protective exclosures could be erected around the eggs. In a heartbreaking development, high storm tides in late May wiped out several nests. Staff witnessed parent birds trying in vain to get to their nests flooded under several inches of water. While these developments are discouraging, the parent birds have persevered and have already established new nests. We are optimistic they will be more successful this time around.
Park Explorations: Delaware Seashore In the on-going series exploring Delaware State Parks, our next stop is Delaware Seashore State Park. Before I go too far, I must confess to a certain bias towards this park...I worked there as both Assistant Superintendent and Park Superintendent from 1983 through 1989. That being said, in my opinion, this park is "Delaware's playground." With over 3000 acres of parkland encompassing scenic tidal marshes and six miles of beautiful ocean and bayside beaches, this park is beach-goer's paradise. Wherever you are in Delaware Seashore, you are always in view of the water. With such ready access, more than a million visitors come each year for sun and fun making this Delaware's busiest state park. The most popular activities for our users are swimming and sunbathing. Bathhouses at Towers Road Ocean and at the south-side of the Indian River Inlet provide convenient locations to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean. These beaches typically have lifeguards from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Other parking areas such as Conquest Road and Keybox Road are available for visitors to get onto the beaches in less congested locations. The park provides opportunities for just about every ocean sport including surf fishing, surfing, kayaking, kite boarding, windsurfing, skim boarding, boating, and clamming. With miles of beautiful beaches, there's generally plenty of room for visitors to spread out and have some fun! The park also features camping facilities at the Indian River Inlet. Sites including water, sewer and electric hookups are especially popular with campers. For those looking for more "upscale" overnight accommodations, the park now features modern cottages on the north-side of the Indian River Inlet. Nearby, the Indian River Marina is currently in the midst of a multi-year renovation to make it state-of-the-art! The marina features many services including a seafood store, bait and tackle shop, ship store, charter boats and head boats. For entertainment, Delaware Seashore also features a full schedule of recreational and environmental programs including kayak excursions and boat tours of the inland bays. A visit to the historic Indian River Life Saving Station and museum is not to be missed. With so much to offer, you can see why I call the park "Delaware's Playground." Come out and see what all the fun's about! For information on the park, its programs and fees, call the office at 302-227-2800.
Sandcastle Contest Come join us for Delaware Seashore State Park's "Sandcastle Contest!" This annual event has become a tradition at the park and is held the Saturday following July 4th. This year's event is scheduled on July 9th from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the beach at the South Inlet Day Area. This wonderful family activity offers prizes to participants in two categories: "12 years and younger" and the "Open Class." There is no fee to enter the contest but be aware park entrance fees are in effect on that date.
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 7 days a week, year-round, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. We will have extended hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning June 13 and ending September 6. The Center 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!
Contact the Seaside Nature Center at 302-645-6852 or check out our website at www.destateparks.com
Stephen Schilly is Park Operations Administrator for the Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation. He may be reached at email@example.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 8 July 1, 2005