Out and About in Delaware's State Parks
|by Stephen Schilly
|A Childhood Memory Have you ever been somewhere that an unexpected sight or sound triggered a memory of the past? I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Some experience in the present triggers our senses to bring back a long forgotten memory. I had that happen recently while on a walk along the Junction and Breakwater Trail. I was at the site to inspect a recently completed project. It was a rather cool, dark day when I began my hike heading north from the Wolfe Neck parking area. That particular section of trail happened to be my favorite due to the exceptional scenery and views. The trail was still quite damp from the effects of an especially violent storm that had passed through the resort area the previous day. All around were tell-tale signs of the storm's ferocity. Downed branches and leaves littered the ground. Despite the damage, the trail was still quite accessible. I passed several hikers and bikers as I walked. The relatively peaceful setting was only disturbed by the frequent calls of numerous birds going about their business in the forest. A number of frogs could be heard in the nearby wetlands noisily croaking to one another. Everywhere I looked I could see wildflowers in profusion. Native blossoms such as daisies and the fragrant sweet bay magnolia were an especially welcome sight. A fallen branch from a nearby tulip poplar lay across the trail. The branch held a cluster of the distinctive orange and green flowers which give the tree its name. The flowers are normally found high in the forest canopy out of ordinary reach. Before tossing the branch away, I took a moment to sniff the blossoms. The unique "peppery" fragrance brought back a flood of memories from my childhood. I recalled the hours I spent playing in the woods of northern Delaware. I loved to gather bouquets of wildflowers to bring them home to my mother. I remembered numerous occasions I devoted to trying to balance oversized branches in an effort to knock tulip poplar blossoms to the ground. While I was rarely successful, every once in awhile my efforts paid off. It always made me feel good to see the joy on my mothers face when I arrived home with my prize. It was a very sweet and unexpected memory of a very innocent time. Those few seconds reliving the past made my day.
Rules Are Rules... When I started writing this column four years ago, the first topic I addressed was an ongoing enforcement problem involving individuals, almost exclusively males, who were "cruising" select parking areas and ultimately participating in sexual activity in the parks. My goal in addressing the issue was to inform readers of our Division's policies concerning this subject. As a gay male and employee of the Division, it was important to me the community understood that public nudity and indecent behavior are illegal and would not be tolerated. I stated the Division's policy that any individualmale or female, straight or gaywould be arrested if they were found to be involved in such activities in the parks. While these articles seemed to help, the problem never really went away.
In the past few weeks, I've had several experiences that indicated to me the problems persist. In one case, I and a number of staff were working in a remote parking lot in the coastal area. This lot has very limited access to the water and in the past was virtually unused by the public. Our arrival at the site disturbed two men who appeared to be engaged in inappropriate behavior. The individuals quickly separated and exited the area. Over the course of the next half hour, nine cars driven by middle-aged men came into the lot. It was almost humorous when in every single case, upon recognizing park staff, the drivers grabbed cell phones to make a call as they turned around and exited the lot. This behavior was certainly unusual and suspicious. Our concerns were confirmed by fresh graffiti in the nearby portable toilets that solicited sex in rather lengthy and extremely graphic detail. I wish I could say this was an isolated experience. Unfortunately it is not. Similar activity has been witnessed at numerous locations throughout the resort area.
Obviously, I find such incidents very discouraging. Our parks are open to everyone, young and old. People should be able to visit our facilities and not expect to be exposed to such behavior! It is very important the community understands the Division will do active enforcement, including surveillance of problem sites, to get this situation under control. It is not our intent to intrude on legitimate visitors. Individuals who visit the parks to meet friends have nothing to worry about as long as they do not become involved in illegal activities.
The gay community has a stake in this as well. This type of illegal activity does nothing but perpetuate old stereotypes. The inappropriate actions of a few individuals gives our entire community a bad name. I hope you will understand and support our Division's efforts to correct this problem.
Park Explorations: Fenwick Island Are you looking for someplace "different" to explore in the resort area? How about checking out Fenwick Island State Park? Located on a barrier "island" between the popular coastal communities of Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island, the 344 acre park is a relaxing escape from the crowded resorts. With the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Little Assawoman Bay to the west, you're never far from the water. Among the highlights of this special place is three miles of beautiful beaches for visitors to "stretch out" and enjoy themselves. A bathhouse facility with a concession stand is very popular with families who come to take advantage of the guarded swimming area. While sunbathing and swimming are most popular, other activities such as surf-fishing, windsurfing and surf boarding also draw numerous enthusiasts. For a change of pace, visitors might want to check out the boat rental concession located on the west side of Route 1. It's a great opportunity to get out and explore up close one of Delaware's special inland bays. A beautiful park nestled among Delaware's "quiet resorts," Fenwick Island is well worth a visit! For more information about Fenwick Island State Park, their programs, fees and activities, contact the office at Delaware Seashore State Park at 302-227-2800.
Nature's Best Bets If you're looking for fun ways to spend your spare time, 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! For more information on these and other park programs, contact the Seaside Nature Center at 302-645-6852 or check their web site 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. 7 June 17, 2005