Out and About in Delaware's State Parks
|by Stephen Schilly|
|Leap of Faith
As I sat down to write this article, I was shocked to see that this is the Memorial Day issue of Letters! How could Memorial Day possibly be here so soon? It feels like the New Year has barely gotten started! How could the year be nearly half over already? I suppose my disorientation is mostly the result of everything that has been going on at home. It's been almost eight months since my partner, Bob, and I decided to completely change our lives by making the decision to move to Florida. The plan was prompted by my discovery that I could indeed retire as early as the end of 2005! That fateful discovery immediately started a chain of events that resulted in our purchase of a beautiful home in Boynton Beach, as well as the sale of our current home in Rehoboth.
For most people, such decisions might not seem "earth shattering." However, I am not most people. I am decidedly not impulsive...especially when it comes to major life decisions. I am the kind of person who opts for what is "safe and secure" rather than taking a chance. That is especially true of my biggest "safety net", the job I've had with Delaware State Parks for the past 25 years! Even though such a change is completely out of character for me, it simply felt right. It fell in with all the plans Bob and I had made for the future. So to the surprise of everyone, myself included, I decided to take a leap of faith and retire early. Since making that decision, Bob and I have become frequent commuters to Florida. We've taken every possible opportunity to get the new house ready for our impending arrival. In typical fashion, Bob has enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity to decorate and furnish a new residence. He loves nothing better than a "blank canvas" to challenge his artistic abilities and imagination. He is well on his way to completely making over the space. He's surprised me a couple of times, especially one evening when he grabbed a hammer unannounced and began tearing out a wall. This was doubly a surprise as I had just repainted the wall the previous week! To date wall paper has been stripped from the bathrooms, the entire interior of the house has been repainted, the floors retiled and additional landscaping done. The next step is the overhaul of the kitchen. I'm not sure I'm ready for this! In the meantime, Bob is actively searching for a job. We are optimistic things will come together in the near future. Depending on how things work out for him, I could retire as early as November. Right now it's sort of a waiting game. Time is racing along and we still have lots to do to get ready!
Park Survival Guide
Park fee season: Entrance fees are collected May 1 through Oct. 31. Most areas have self-payment sites for use when fee collectors are off duty. Daily entrance fees are only $2.50 for a Delaware-registered vehicle and $5 for an out-of state vehicle. For frequent visitors, season passes are an even more incredible bargainjust $20 for a Delaware-registered vehicle and $40 for an out-of-state vehicle! Park entrance fees are essential for the operation of the state parks. You might be surprised to learn that state taxes support only 35 percent of the Division's budget, with visitor fees generating the other 65 percent. In times of "tight" economies, these fees are essential to keeping our programs running and our parks open. Amazingly, despite rising costs and inflation, the price of a park annual pass has not been increased since 1986! We encourage visitors to support the parks by purchasing an annual pass.
Pets on beaches: Access for pets on state park beaches is regulated by a state law that prohibits pets on swimming or sunbathing beaches from May 1 through Sept. 30. The Division defines prohibited areas as designated swimming beaches, surfing and sail boarding areas. Pets are allowed in surf fishing areas but they must be on a leash not more than six feet in length. Pets are not permitted off the leash to allow them to run free on the beach or in the surf. Owners are required to clean up after their pets.
Lifeguards: The Division provides lifeguards at designated swimming beaches from Memorial Day through Labor Day. These locations include the main bathhouse and Gordons Pond in Cape Henlopen State Park; Towers Ocean and the south-side of the Indian River Inlet in Delaware Seashore State Park; and the main bathhouse at Fenwick Island State Park. Staffing shortages, typically at the start or end of the summer, may result in an area being "unguarded." Unfortunately, it is not possible for the Division to guard the entire coastline. Lifeguards post orange flags to indicate the area of beach they are guarding. For your protection, we strongly recommend you swim in these guarded areas.
"Carry-in, Carry-out": This program was initiated in 1994 to help make our parks "trash free." Thanks to the cooperation of park visitors, it's working! With no trashcans in the parks, logic might lead you to believe there would be more litter, but the fact is the state parks are actually much cleaner. Look for the trash bags that the Division provides at designated locations throughout the parks.
Bird Nesting Areas: Several species make their summer "homes" on Delaware's beaches, nesting in the sand on or near the dune lines. Unfortunately, this is also where beachgoers want to recreate or sunbathe. For these birds, there is no other place they can go to establish their nests. In recent years, a number of these species have declined dramatically. As part of a recovery plan for the threatened piping plover, the Division closes sections of beach to pedestrians, beach vehicles and pets when nests are discovered. So far this year, nests have been established north of Gordons Pond and on the Point of Cape Henlopen.
Indecent exposure: State law and state park rules and regulations prohibit indecent exposure anywhere at any time. Contrary to what you might read elsewhere, there are no "clothing optional" beaches in Delaware. This prohibition extends to other areas of the parks including parking lots and trails.
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. and 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.
Croaking Crooners and Peeking Peepers Saturdays, May 28, 8 p.m. Snores, plunks, and peeps will greet your ears on this night hike into the world of frog and toad songs.
Delaware Breakwater Kayak Trips Sundays, May 29, 10 a.m. - Noon Paddle a sit-on-top kayak from the fishing pier around the Delaware Breakwater and Lewes Harbor. Participants will be led by informative and experienced naturalists for a two-hour paddling excursion. These trips are designed for beginner paddlers, but can be strenuous depending on wind and water conditions. All equipment is provided. Bring drinking water and be prepared to get wet. Limited to 10 persons and pre-registration is required. The cost is $25 per person.
Sea Turtles Saturday, May 28, 11 a.m. Sea turtles are often visitors to the Delaware Bay. Come learn about the turtles that live off our coasts, what they eat and how they live.
For more information, contact the Seaside Nature Center at 302-645-6852 or check out 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. 4 May 20, 2005