Out and About in Delaware's State Parks
|by Stephen Schilly|
|Park Explorations: Brandywine Creek State Park
In the on-going series exploring Delaware State Parks, our final stop is Brandywine Creek State Park. This scenic 933-acre park is located among the rolling hills of the piedmont in northern Delaware. A rural paradise of meadows and deciduous forests, there is no better place in the State to observe the beauty of autumn's colorful foliage display. The park was once a dairy farm owned by the du Pont family. In the late 1800s, they divided the property with a network of grey stone walls built by Italian masons. Along with numerous farm buildings, these walls serve as a reminder of the park's rich agricultural history. Today, the park is an oasis within the suburban development of New Castle County. It is the perfect place to escape and enjoy wide open spaces. The spectacular views of nearby hills, fields and forests are second-to-none. The park offers 14 miles of trails for those who wish to get out and experience nature up-close and personal. A highlight of any visit is the beautiful Brandywine Creek. This important stream played a key role in the Revolutionary War and was central to the industrial development of northern Delaware. Today, the tranquil waters of the creek serve as an ideal spot for fishermen, canoers and kayakers. The nearby forests and fields are the perfect spot to observe native wildlife including deer, songbirds, hawks, foxes and butterflies. The Brandywine Creek Nature Center is the perfect place to start your exploration of the park's rich environmental resources. The Center is open year-round and offers a wide variety of programs for school groups, as well as the general public. Adjacent to the Center is the Tulip Tree Nature Preserve. This unique forest features a majestic stand of 190-year old poplars. It is a rare natural resource not to be missed! The park also has a second Nature Preserve, the Fresh Water Marsh located along the Brandywine Creek. Both of these special places have the distinction of being the first official nature preserves in the State. For information about Brandywine Creek State Park, its programs and fees, call the office at (302) 577-3534.
Trail Challenge Program
Looking for a change of pace and a fun way to get physically fit? Why not take the Delaware State Parks "Trail Challenge"? Hike 15 designated trails in 10 parks within 12 months and earn our "Golden Boot Award."
The Trail Challenge is something most everyone can doyoung or old, couch potato or fitness freak. It gives participants the incentive to visit many state parks and the opportunity to enjoy some of Delaware's most spectacular scenic wonders. All of this, while taking part in an activity that contributes to physical fitness. Did you know that hikers can burn up to 600 calories per hour if they keep up a brisk pace? So, why not take the "Challenge?" You could be one of the "elite"group of people who have earned this unique award. For more information check our website or call the Division's Cultural and Recreation Services Section at 302-739-9191.
Resident Curatorship Program
Have you ever wanted to live in a park? Have you ever wanted to "fix up" and live in a historic house? If you answered yes to these questions, have we got a program for you...Resident Curatorship! What is "resident curatorship?" It is an innovative program first pioneered by the State of Maryland, as a public/private partnership that allows people who long to restore and live in a historic house to do so without the outlay of capital that would be required just to purchase the property. Resident curators can create the home of their dreams (subject to the limitations of good preservation practice) and live in it rent-free for the rest of their lives, for the cost of restoration and maintenance. At the end of that period, the State gets back a functional building that can be used in a number of waysfor historical interpretation, as a staff residence, for offices or another suitable function. The time and cash spent on restoration and maintenance is considered a donation to the State, and reported on a yearly basis.
Delaware State Parks currently has four buildings designated as resident curatorships: Buck Tavern at Lums Pond State Park, Warrington House at Trap Pond State Park, Lums Mill House at Lums Pond State Park, and a brick duplex that once served as the married officer's quarters at Fort DuPont State Park. Buck Tavern, a reconstructed 1820's Federal-style house, is currently being restored by Rich, Heddy and Hattie Stewart of Maryland. We are currently looking for a curator or curators for the Warrington House, a mid-1800s Italianate-style farmhouse with elaborate detail on the exterior and a kitchen that was probably an earlier Federal-style house, perhaps moved there from elsewhere on the property. Lums Mill House, dating to the first quarter of the 1700s, is one of the earliest buildings still standing in Delaware. The curator(s) willing to tackle this special house will need to be adventurous people willing to take on a major challenge, but the reward will be the opportunity to preserve a significant part of Delaware's colonial history. We hope to find the right caretaker(s) for this historic house by next spring. The brick duplex at Fort DuPont was built early in the 20th century following one of the standard plans developed for the US Army and used at military facilities across the country. We will be advertising this curatorship next spring. For additional information on Delaware's resident curatorship program or on these historic buildings, take a look at the Delaware State Parks website at www.destateparks.com under "Things to Know" or contact Dr. Cara Blume at 302-739-9191.
Nature's Best Bets
If you are looking for fun and exciting 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. with the exception of the following dates when it will be closed...October 24 through November 1, November 24, December 25 and January 1. The Center provides programs designed for individuals, families, schools and other organized groups. A highlight of any visit is viewing the five 1000-gallon aquariums that feature different aquatic habitats.
Hoots and Hollers Owl Hunt Oct. 22 and Nov. 19, 8 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Search the pine forests of Cape Henlopen for our native owls and listen for their screeches, hoots, and hollers. Program participation is limited to 15, so pre-registration is required. The fee is $3 per person.
Fall's Colors in the Salt Marsh Oct. 23, 10 a.m.-11 a.m. Hike the Salt Marsh Spur Trail with a naturalist and view the newly-emerging fall colors. Program participation is limited to 15 and pre-registration is required.
For more information on these and other park programs, contact the Seaside Nature Center at 302-645-6852 or visit 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. 14 October 14, 2005