Out and About in Delaware's State Parks
|by Stephen Schilly|
|Park Fee Season Begins!
It's that time of year again! Park entrance fees will be in effect from 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 your "best bet" just $20 for a Delaware-registered vehicle and $40 for an out-of-state vehicle! Entrance fees are critical for the operation of our state parks. You might be surprised to learn that state taxes support only 35 percent of the Division's operating budget, with visitor fees generating most of the other 65 percent. These fees are essential to keep 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. Passes are available for purchase at park offices during normal business hours, 8 a.m.4:30 p.m. For your added convenience, you can purchase the passes online at www.destateparks.com. All you have to do is click on the icon for Delaware @Your_Service.
Gordons Pond Pavilion Completed
I am happy to report that after a lengthy process of planning and construction, the new picnic pavilion at the north end of the Gordons Pond parking lot is essentially complete! This new structure is a duplicate of the pavilion located adjacent to the fishing pier on the Lewes side of the park. This new facility gives beachgoers a place to get out of the sun and eat their meals in comfort. It includes picnic tables, a large grill and other amenities and will be available to rent for parties and outdoor functions. When not in use by rental groups, the pavilion will be available to visitors on a first-come, first-served basis.
This year, the Division of Parks and Recreation has introduced a new "Lifetime Pass" program for Delaware Residents over the age of 65. The pass can be purchased for a one-time fee of $45 and allows the senior resident access to every state park that charges a vehicle entrance fee for their lifetime. These special passes are now available for purchase at any state park office.
Park Explorations: Fort Delaware
Have you ever wanted to get away from it all? Are you looking for something completely new and different to experience? Why not consider a "journey into the past" by taking a trip to Fort Delaware? Established in 1951, the Fort was among the first of Delaware's State Parks. It is situated on Pea Patch Island located a half mile off Delaware City in the Delaware River. The fortress dates back to 1859 and served as prison for Confederate POWs during the Civil War.
A trip to Fort Delaware begins dockside in Delaware City. After a short boat ride, visitors are met at the island pier for a jitney ride up to the granite and brick fortress. Historic interpreters dressed in period-correct clothing greet visitors as they begin their explorations of the Fort. These interpreters have researched and play the roles of individuals who were on the island back in the summer of 1863. Their fascinating stories help visitors to understand the rigors of life on the island during that dark period of our nation's history. Demonstrations by the blacksmith and laundress are highlights of any visit to the site. A live firing of an 8 inch Columbiad gun is an unforgettable experience for one and all. In addition to these exciting attractions, there are exhibits featuring artifacts recovered on the island, as well as numerous rooms that have been refurbished to appear as they did in 1863.
While Fort Delaware is the primary destination of most visitors to Pea Patch Island, it is not the site's only significant attraction. The island also features numerous natural treasures including one of the largest nesting areas for wading birds on the East Coast. Nine species of herons, egrets and ibis call the island "home." An observation platform located off the northern end of the island trail provides a wonderful vantage point to observe these beautiful birds in action.
We hope you'll take the time to visit Fort Delaware. A trip to the Fort is a truly unforgettable experience. The Fort is opened weekends and holidays from late April through September and Wednesdays through Sundays from mid-June until Labor Day. The park is closed Mondays and Tuesdays with the exception of holidays.
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.
Birds Abound! Saturday, May 14, 8:30-11:30 a.m.
Join a naturalist on a journey to Thompsons Island, a local birding "hot spot." This special site features a beautiful trail that extends to the Rehoboth Bay. Examine wading birds up close and local coastal maritime forest birds including warblers and sparrows.
Effects of an Oil Spill Sunday, May 15, 1 p.m.
The Delaware River and Bay are no strangers to oil spills. Come learn about how oil spills affect our shorelines, wildlife and waters. We'll also discuss the most recent oil spill, how it was managed and its potential effects.
Mother's Nature Walk Sunday, May 8, 1 p.m.
In honor of the mothers who do so much, we'll embark on a nature walk to observe any nurturing mothers doing what they do best. We'll look for a host of wildflowers and plant life. Mothers will receive a gift for the garden. Pre-registration is required and participation is limited to 25.
Who Done It in the Park? A Forensics Exploration Saturday, May 14, Noon - 2 p.m.
The Nature Center Crime Scene Unit (NCCSU) of Cape Henlopen State Park needs your help to solve the mystery of "Who done it in the park?" We'll follow a trail of clues from fingerprints and fibers to footprints and crime scene analysis to figure out the culprit. This program is intended for adults and children ages 13 and older. Please pre-register by calling the Nature Center at 302-645-6852.
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 6, 2005