Out and About in Delaware's State Parks
|by Stephen Schilly|
We live in a fast-paced, stressed-out world. Everywhere you turn the feeling is "rush, rush, rush!" No matter who you are or what you do, there is no way to avoid the reality of pressure in everyday life. We have experienced it. I know I'm luckier than most people. I have a job I love that gives me a great sense of accomplishment. But that doesn't mean I don't have my fair share of stress and headaches...especially during the busy summer months. Like many people, I try to find positive ways to find a balance for life's daily demands. High on my list of favorite escapes is a day at the beach. When that isn't possible, a wonderful neighbor is kind enough to share her pool and backyard oasis with my partner, Bob, and me. Even a few vigorous hours doing yard work is enough to help me refocus my energy in a more positive way. But my favorite "escape" takes place every night when I go to bed. Now before you jump to any conclusions, let me explain! Our master bedroom looks out on the wooded backyard. When we built the house, we landscaped the area and installed two fish ponds. Every night, I lie on the bed and look out on a nocturnal performance choreographed by Mother Nature. The relaxing, soft sounds of water tumbling over a small waterfall sets the stage. Landscape lights around the ponds allow me to watch the koi and gold fish swimming about in the clear waters. At times, they almost appear to be floating in mid-air. I frequently hear the croaking of frogs strategically situated to capture insects attracted by the lights. Most recently, thousands of fireflies have been added to the production. Their flickering lights of fluorescent yellow and green add a magical quality to the scene. Every night I take the time to look out on this amazing scene. There is such beauty and serenity in this "dance of nature." It's always the perfect ending for any day...no matter how crazy!
Park Explorations: Fort DuPont State Park
(Historic Theatre at Fort DuPont State Park)
In the on-going series exploring Delaware State Parks, our next stop is Fort DuPont State Park. Located off Route 9 in New Castle County just south of Delaware City, the 322 acre site is one of Delaware's newest State Parks. Named for Rear Admiral Samuel du Pont, the Fort was actively used as a military base from the Civil War through World War II. The property was turned over to the state following World War II and has been used for various purposes, including the Governor Bacon Health Center. Portions of the site were transferred to the Division of Parks and Recreation in 1992 and later dedicated as Fort DuPont State Park.
Like its nearby counterparts Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island and Fort Mott in New Jersey, Fort DuPont served an important role in coastal defense along the Delaware River. These three forts worked together to ensure no enemy boats could threaten the important commercial ports of Wilmington and Philadelphia. While the Fort never saw actual combat, it served its vital military function through World War II.
Today, Fort DuPont serves a more peaceful role. Visitors to the park are invited to walk a trail that winds past structures representing different periods of the Fort's rich historic past. It is a great site to picnic in close proximity to the Delaware River. A new public boat ramp provides first-class access to this important natural resource. For visitors interested in more active recreation, tennis courts and basketball courts are also available.
State Park Fee Increases in Effect Beginning July 23, Delaware's state parks instituted the first significant fee increase since 1986. The fee hikes are expected to generate a much-needed $1.1 million in revenue. Users have historically contributed at least 65 percent of the costs of maintaining state parks through the fees charged.
"This is not a windfall," said State Parks Director Charles A. Salkin, "The increases will offset the rising costs to operate the state parks in the consistent, clean and safe manner that the public has come to expect. Plus, we know that by maintaining our high satisfaction rating for all levels of park management, we draw tourists from out of state, which adds to the economic benefits to the state and the surrounding communities as well as the parks. The cost of operating any business has increased dramatically over the past two decades since our fees were last changed and our state park system is no exception."
The new fee schedule approved by the General Assembly raises daily entrance fees for the inland parks to $3 for residents, $6 for non-residents. This includes Trap Pond, Killens Pond, Fox Point, Brandywine Creek, Lums Pond, White Clay Creek and Bellevue state parks and other sites. The daily entrance fee for the ocean parks (Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore, Fenwick Island) will be $4 for Delawareans and $8 for non-residents.
In addition, the cost of surf fishing permits was raised from $50 to $65 for Delaware residents, from $100 to $130 non-residents, from $40 to $55 for Delaware seniors and from $80 to $110 for non-resident seniors.
"We still believeand think most park visitors agreethat we offer the best outdoor recreation bargain anywhere," said Salkin. "Many visitors are surprised by our low fees and have asked for years why we don't charge more."
A big part of the added revenue will be used for pay hikes for more than 500 seasonal employees, their first raise in hourly salary in four years.
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. through 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!
Delaware Breakwater Kayak Trips Wed-Sun, 10 a.m.-Noon Paddle a sit-on-top kayak form the fishing pier around the Delaware Breakwater and Lewes Harbor. Participants will be lead by informative and experienced naturalists who will provide basic instruction before heading out. These trips are designed for intermediate paddlers, and can be strenuous depending on wind and water conditions. All equipment is provided. Bring plenty of drinking water and sunscreen, and be prepared to get wet! Limited to 10 participants. Pre-registration is required (302) 645-6852. Solo paddlers must be at least 13 years or older. Tandem kayaks are also available. $25 per person solo or $35 per tandem.
For more information, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 10 July 29, 2005