Governor Markell Announces Delaware Bayshore Milestones

Event highlights land preservation, the Bayshore Byway, outdoor recreation amenities, and new branding design

Thousand Acre Marsh, DE – With autumn foliage at its peak and the scenic Thousand Acre Marsh in the background, Governor Jack Markell announced important Delaware Bayshore milestones that enhance the state’s natural resources for world-class conservation and boost the economy through recreational activities. The Governor was joined by Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary David Small, Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) Secretary Bernice Whaley, conservation, transportation and tourism partners and Bayshore community leaders and residents to highlight key accomplishments of the Delaware Bayshore Initiative.Bayshore

The Delaware Bayshore Initiative enhances and promotes the region as a world-class conservation and low-impact recreation area, strengthens historic local communities and improves the quality of life for all Delawareans. The initiative received national recognition from the U.S. Department of the Interior, as one of the country’s most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world.

“The Delaware Bayshore Initiative builds on our reputation as a state of unique and beautiful natural resources, while also strengthening our economy by encouraging Delawareans and visitors to enjoy the area through activities like birding, fishing, and boating,” said Governor Markell. “That’s why we’re excited to announce these efforts to preserve important wetlands, increase public access to one of our state’s most beautiful landscapes, and enhance the Bayshore as a valuable tourism destination. These milestones help ensure we and future generations will fully enjoy all of the benefits the Bayshore offers.”

The Delaware Bayshore, extending along the Delaware River and Bay from New Castle to Lewes, is widely recognized as an area of global ecological significance. Its expansive coastal marshes, sandy shoreline, forests, fields, and agricultural lands provide habitat for more than 400 species of birds and other wildlife. The Nature Conservancy has called the Delaware Bayshore, “one of the earth’s most important stopovers for migratory birds.” Nearly 120,000 acres of Bayshore lands are already protected as national wildlife refuges, state wildlife areas, state parks, national estuarine research reserves, private conservation areas, agricultural preserves and cultural heritage sites throughout the area.

“The Delaware Bayshore Initiative is building upon decades of significant conservation investment in preserving wetlands, forests, agricultural lands and open space,” said Secretary Small. “I want to thank our federal partners, Bayshore communities and the many conservation partners working collaboratively. By preserving and enhancing our precious Bayshore lands, we are encouraging Delawareans and visitors to enjoy these natural treasures and protecting the Delaware Bayshore and its wild and scenic landscape for future generations.”

“The scenic Delaware Bayshore, which includes coastal marshes, farms and forests, is not only a great recreational amenity for the state, but a crucial habitat for diverse species,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper. “I am proud of ongoing local, state and federal partnerships like the Delaware Bayshore Initiative that help to protect these lands for generations to come, while encouraging Delawareans and visitors to the First State to get outside and enjoy these beautiful natural treasures.”

“I am proud of the hard work that a number of state and federal agencies have done over the past few years to pool resources, leverage grant funding, and strategically acquire valuable property on Delaware’s coast,” said U.S. Senator Chris Coons. “Delaware’s Bayshore Initiative recognizes that protecting our beautiful wetlands is important from an environmental point of view, but it also makes sense to preserve treasures like the Thousand Acre Marsh that attracts birders and naturalists from all over the world who want to enjoy the view. I am glad that federal programs like the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program were used in conjunction with state and private funds to make this possible.”

“Delaware is blessed with a beautiful coastline and natural habitat that draws residents and visitors from across the region.  We have to preserve it for future generations to enjoy,” said U.S. Congressman John Carney. “These milestones reflect tremendous conservation efforts that have gone into protecting our precious natural resources. I’m excited for more people to discover the Delaware Bayshore and the beauty that’s right in our backyard.”

Today’s event highlights four Bayshore milestones, including the preservation of a key property at Thousand Acre Marsh, the launch of the Delaware Bayshore Byway and Plan, the opening of a new trail and wildlife viewing platform and the Bayshore’s new branding design. The projects were made possible through a variety of partnerships and state, federal and private funding sources.

Land preservation of the 140-acre Bennett Farm property at Thousand Acre Marsh

The Bennett Farm, a key coastal wetland property, part of the Thousand Acre Marsh near Port Penn, was preserved through a federal grant of $731,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant (NCWCG) Program, along with matching state funds and private contributions.

Conservation of the 140-acre property brings a total of 528 acres of Thousand Acre Marsh under permanent protection and expands access to globally-significant wildlife habitat within the Delaware Bayshore. With this property, the Augustine Wildlife Area, including the Thousand Acre Marsh, totals 3,130 protected acres.

The Thousand Acre Marsh provides habitat for thousands of wintering waterfowl and serves as a stopover for migratory birds during spring and fall and as breeding grounds for waterbirds, as well as habitat for fish and muskrats. Protection and management of the property will help safeguard habitat for several species listed as State Endangered, as well as protecting foraging habitat for one of the largest and most diverse heronries on the East Coast and critical overwintering habitat for the bald eagle.

“Coastal wetlands are among the richest and most important natural places on the planet,” said Wendi Weber, Northeast Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “They are habitats for fish and wildlife, but also play an important role for people – such as providing clean water and special places to get outside and enjoy nature. National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grants allow us to leverage resources with our partners to conserve the nature of our coast, including Delaware’s Bayshore.”

“Today marks the start of a never-before precedent of conservation partnerships and stakeholders from local, state and federal agencies all coming together to not only protect and preserve this incredible acreage at Thousand Acre Marsh, but to enhance the property for public access, educational opportunities and world-class viewing amenities,” said Bill Stewart, president of the Delmarva Ornithological Society (DOS). “To realize that the efforts of numerous birders and supporters of DOS Delaware Bird-A-Thon fundraising, coupled with funds provided by other great conservation partners, helped turn a dream into reality, is frankly, awe-inspiring.”

Delaware’s matching cost share for the grant was about $500,000, consisting of Delaware Open Space Program funds and partner contributions, and a land value match from a nearby state-owned tract that was part of the grant provisions placed under the protection of the NCWCG program. Three conservation partner groups who financially supported the project are The Nature Conservancy in Delaware with funding from Mt. Cuba Center, the Delmarva Ornithological Society and Delaware Wild Lands.

Launch of the Delaware Bayshore Byway and Plan

The Delaware Bayshore Byway, extending along Route 9 from the City of New Castle to the St. Jones Neck east of Dover, was officially launched today. As “the road less traveled,” the Delaware Bayshore Byway meanders along the Delaware River and Bay through the heart of the Bayshore’s most picturesque coastal marshes, sandy shorelines, forests, fields and agricultural lands. The Byway is the tourism backbone of the Bayshore – connecting special natural areas, recreation and historical sites and Bayshore communities.

“DelDOT is pleased to collaborate with DNREC, Bayshore communities and others to promote, preserve and enhance the natural and cultural resources that make the Bayshore region special,” said DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan. “By building trails and maintaining roadways, DelDOT proudly supports eco-tourism throughout the state of Delaware.”

As part of the launch, the Corridor Management Plan (CMP) for the Byway was announced. The plan was funded by a grant of $146,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byway Program, with additional funds provided by local state legislators.

“What makes the Scenic Byway Program so special is the fact that it is a grass-roots collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States,” said Federal Highway Administration Delaware Division Administrator Mary Ridgeway. “The nearly $1.1 million in federal funding for the Delaware Bayshore Byway management plan and future improvements will help boost the economy by creating jobs and bringing tourist dollars to the region.”

The CMP provides the framework to guide the actions necessary to enhance, preserve and promote the Bayshore and Byway. The plan was developed by the Bayshore Planning Advisory Committee, comprised of representatives from state agencies, environmental groups, tourism offices and Bayshore communities, with leadership from Delaware Greenways. The CMP establishes a path forward and includes goals that will brand and market the Bayshore and Byway, conserve the natural environment, support the needs of Bayshore communities and enhance access to the natural areas.

“Over a two year period, the planning process actively engaged many community leaders, landowners, tourism experts and state and local organizations and developed a plan valued by the key stakeholders of the Bayshore,” said Steve Borleske, chairman of the Bayshore Planning Advisory Committee and Delaware Greenways board member. “With the CMP to steer our efforts, the committee is dedicated to working together to implement recommendations that will preserve and enhance the Delaware Bayshore Byway.”

A Byway extension which will continue south from St. Jones Neck east of Dover to the City of Lewes has been proposed. At this time, the towns of Bowers Beach and Slaughter Beach and the community of Broadkill Beach have officially voted to be part of the Byway extension. Outreach with other Bayshore communities is currently underway.

Opening of new outdoor recreation amenities – a wildlife viewing platform and trail

A new wildlife viewing platform overlooking the Thousand Acre Marsh and a scenic walking trail were opened today, both of which were designed to provide ADA-accessible opportunities for observing wildlife. Interpretive signs are being added at the trailhead area and the observation platform. The new platform provides outstanding viewing of waterfowl, herons, egrets and other waterbirds, especially during peak fall migrations. These enhancements provide a safe location for travelers on the Byway to view wildlife and wetlands and promote low-impact recreation in close proximity to Bayshore communities, including nearby Port Penn and Delaware City.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, Delaware outdoor recreation, which includes hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and tourism, significantly contributes to the state’s conservation economy, which generates $4 billion annually, including $1.1 billion in salaries and wages and $304 million in local and state tax revenue. More than 60 percent of Delawareans participate in outdoor recreation.

Funded in part through the FY2015 Trails and Pathways Bond Bill appropriation, this project is part of a Federal Highways Administration Byways Grant for the Delaware Bayshore Byway.

Unveiling the new Delaware Bayshore brand design

A new branding design was unveiled that enhances the Delaware Bayshore as an eco-tourism destination. It creates an identity for the entire Bayshore, with communication materials that reflect natural and historical areas, the Byway and the communities. The brand sets the Bayshore apart as a distinctive and memorable travel destination and increases the likelihood of Delawareans and out-of-state residents visiting the area.

“We’re very fortunate that Bayshore partners have worked with us to incorporate the look and feel of the new Delaware tourism logo into their brand,” said Secretary Bernice Whaley of the Delaware Economic Development Office. “With its new identity, the Delaware Bayshore becomes a clearly identifiable place of its own, one that has the cohesiveness and unity that is needed to become a true destination. With a clear, compelling and inspiring brand, the Bayshore becomes a great tool in our toolbox for enhancing tourism in Delaware. This is truly a win-win for us all.”

The brand designs include a branding statement, logos, slogan, signage and advertisements that can be used by the partners to market and promote the Bayshore in a coordinated way. The branding is vital to the education of residents and travelers and helps ensure that future generations learn to respect, value and protect the region.

For more information on the Delaware Bayshore Initiative, contact Karen Bennett, Delaware Bayshore Coordinator, DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife at 302-739-9124,, or visit DNREC’s website at

For information on the Delaware Bayshore Byway, contact Ann Gravatt, DelDOT Planning Supervisor, Byway Program, at 302-760-2254, or visit the Delaware Bayshore Byway website at