Out and About in Delaware's State Parks
|by Stephen Schilly
|The Price of Progress
The past few weeks have not been especially happy ones for me and many of my neighbors. Our neighborhood has come alive with the daily sounds of the bulldozers that moved in to clear the adjacent farmland and forests for the next big development north of Rehoboth. The former pastoral beauty of the property has been replaced by a horrible wasteland. Hundreds of majestic oaks were toppled as much of the forest was clear cut to make way for the new homes. For many of us, we knew this day was coming. With land prices in the resort area soaring, it was only a matter of time before the property went into development. However, understanding that reality and being prepared for the shock of the development were two very different things!
As a native Delawarean, I have spent my entire life watching the inevitable effects of development throughout the state. Some of my earliest memories were of a suburban Wilmington home our family moved to when I was 3 years old. At that time our neighborhood seemed far away from the city. There was little but farms and woods all around us. Within a decade that all changed. Strip malls moved in and housing developments sprung up everywhere. That same scenario has played out time and time again in my life. When I got my first park job at Lums Pond in 1981, the 12 miles between the park and the city of Newark were virtually nothing but farmland. Today, that same area is nothing but suburban development. When I got my first job at Delaware Seashore in 1983, Rehoboth was essentially a summer resort and separated by miles of open space from Lewes. Today, the town is a thriving year-round community. Development has not only joined Rehoboth and Lewes but is now quickly moving on to Milton and Milford! It will not be long before the journey from Wilmington to Rehoboth will be through nothing but suburban housing developments.
I wonder what is the true cost of all this development. Is this really "progress?" What value do we as a society put on the open space around us? The development would suggest we put a higher value on suburban sprawl. We are fortunate in Delaware that our legislators have strongly supported the acquisition and protection of open space. Without their vision, special places like Delaware Seashore and Cape Henlopen would long ago have fallen victim to bulldozers. Just think about it! Can you imagine multimillion dollar homes on the Point of the Cape? It's almost inconceivable but without protection this would certainly have been its fate. Open space is not only important to all of our quality of life but is also critical for preserving the wonderful natural resources of this state. Progress comes at a cost. Are we willing to pay the price? Do we need to do a better job of striking a balance? It's something we all need to think about.
Park Explorations: White Clay Creek
Continuing our exploration of Delaware State Parks, the next stop on our journey is White Clay Creek. The park was first created in 1968 with the purchase of 24 acres of land. Located in New Castle County near the city of Newark, the site is now Delaware's second largest state park at 3300 acres. An oasis among the urban development of northern Delaware, the park offers numerous opportunities for visitors to escape and enjoy the quiet beauty of rolling hills, pastures and deciduous forests that characterize the White Clay Valley. Scenic vistas abound throughout this special place. There is no better way to get out and enjoy the park than to hike or bike the more than 36 miles of trails that cross the property. There are trails of varying difficulty to challenge visitors of all skill levels. Whether you are a novice or veteran, there is a trail waiting for your explorations! The park features many recreational opportunities. The Walter S. Carpenter Jr. Recreation Area features an 18-hole disc golf course, a cross country course for runners, a life course fitness trail, a playground for children, a picnic pavilion and a brand new band stage for outdoor concerts and performances. The nearby Judge Morris Estate features a historic house and grounds while the White Clay Creek Preserve protects some of the most beautiful natural resources in the state. One of the most popular activities in the park is fishing along the White Clay Creek. This is especially true in the spring when the creek is stocked with trout. The opening of the trout season finds the banks of the creek lined with avid anglers trying to land a trophy fish. It is an amazing sight to see! Another highlight of a visit to the park is a stop at the historic Chambers House Nature Center. Located near the banks of the White Clay Creek, it is a perfect spot to begin any exploration of the park. Programs are offered throughout the year highlighting the natural and cultural history of the White Clay Valley. You'll be glad you took the time to visit this beautiful corner of Delaware!
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.
African Americans in WWII Sunday, March 13, 11 a.m.
Explore the role of the African American soldier during World War II and learn about their often-overlooked, but very important part in the war.
Exploring the Deep: Deep Sea Creatures Sat., March 19, 11 a.m.
Join graduate student Michael League from the University of Delaware who will discuss his research aboard the ship Atlantis, the submersible Alvin, and his experiences studying deep sea creatures.
Spring Awakenings: Reptiles Revive! Saturday, March 26, 1 p.m.
Join us in this look at how spring is emerging all around us. You will see live reptiles, discuss how reptiles and amphibians are awakening for spring, and then you will be taken on a short hike around the Seaside Nature Trail to look for signs that spring is returning to Cape Henlopen.
Decoy Duck Carving Saturday, April 2, 11 a.m.
Come learn about the proud Delmarva tradition of duck decoy carving. Doug Gibson will demonstrate the craft and show some of the many decoys he has carved.
For more information on these and other park programs, 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. 2 March 11, 2005