DNREC to limit number of people allowed in state parks and wildlife areas, which may close for periods

Reminder: Bathrooms closed in public areas; out-of-state travelers must self-quarantine before visiting state properties

DOVER, Del. – The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced today it will take steps when necessary to limit the numbers of visitors within state parks and wildlife areas, following crowding and public health concerns.

Starting Friday, April 10, administrators of parks and wildlife areas will recommend to DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin that vehicle access be limited at times when visitor usage is observed to be cause crowding and prevent safe social distancing. These limits will be implemented by DNREC’s Natural Resources Police.

“As the days have gotten nicer and the stay-at-home period endures, we have been increasingly concerned to see the behavior of some visitors to our state parks and wildlife areas, with full parking lots and increasingly crowded trails,” said Secretary Shawn Garvin. “Limiting the number of people when we see too much crowding will allow us to keep these public spaces open for individuals who need a break and fresh air, but to keep everyone safe.”

DNREC provided the following tips and guidance for visiting parks and wildlife areas at this time:

  • Parks or wildlife areas may be restricted, or areas may be closed if it is determined based on observation of parking lots or groupings of people that lack of responsible social distancing has become an issue.
  • While parks and wildlife areas are large, many visitors use the same amenities. Visitors should try to spread out from others within these areas.
  • Visitors to parks and wildlife areas are urged to limit the time of their visit so the overall number of people in each area is reduced.
  • Consider visiting parks and wildlife areas in off-peak times. For overall visitation, sunnier and warmer days are more popular than cloudier or cooler ones. In many parks, visitors pick up mid-afternoon.
  • Bathrooms remain closed in all parks and wildlife areas and at boat ramps.
  • Beaches are closed except for exercise, dog-walking and some vehicle surf-fishing under restricted conditions.
  • Out-of-state visitors must observe a 14-day quarantine before entering a park or wildlife area.
  • Responsible social distancing practices should always be maintained, even while outside.
  • All currently allowable activities are subject to change.

These provisions all come under the authority of the Governor’s state of emergency declarations and have the force and effect of law. Any failure to comply with the provisions contained in a Declaration of a State of Emergency or any modification to a Declaration of the State of Emergency can constitute a criminal offense.

Anyone concerned about an individual or group in any state park or wildlife area may contact DNREC’s Natural Resources Police via Tip411, DNREC’s smartphone app, or by calling the 24-hour DNREC Dispatch Center at 302-739-4580. Tip411 allows the public to easily report concerns. The app is available for free download by searching DENRP via the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store.

For the latest information on COVID-19 in Delaware, visit de.gov/coronavirus.

About DNREC

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. For more information, visit the website and connect with DNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contact: Nikki Lavoie, nikki.lavoie@delaware.gov

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DNREC provides virtual environmental and educational content

DOVER, Del. – As events and programs are canceled or postponed during Governor Carney’s emergency declaration for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control encourages Delawareans to take advantage of its robust collection of online resources. They can watch live virtual park programs multiple times a week, take a virtual boating course, explore parks and historical areas by video and more.

A few online resources and services include:

  • Daily Delaware State Parks Virtual Content: Dive into Delaware State Parks from the comfort of home with videos and interactive blog posts shared with the public every day at 11 a.m. Park interpreters provide virtual programs through a new series of videos posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on Delaware State Parks’ Facebook, Instagram and YouTube accounts. History lessons, scavenger hunts, virtual hikes and other activities are featured on the Delaware State Parks Adventure Blog every Tuesday and Thursday. In addition, each state park now has a designated day of the week to post special content on their individual Facebook pages. All virtual content will remain online for the public to view at any time.
  • DNREC YouTube Channel: Explore the world of DNREC through video. From barn owls to snowy owls, Mirror Lake to Massey’s Landing, recycling tips and environmental education. DNREC has lots of engaging content to share with kids and adults alike. One recent video is an overview of the Fort Miles area of Cape Henlopen State Park, a good way to see and learn the history of Delaware’s critical World War II military installation with tours currently not taking place.
  • Outdoor Delaware: Enjoy the digital Outdoor Delaware. In the spring edition, read about the red knot’s migration from South America to the Delaware Bay, cleaner alternatives to gas-powered cars, and how to create backyard habitats without breaking the bank.
  • Turkey Hunting Safety Classes: Delaware’s annual wild turkey hunting season will run April 11 to May 9, with a special one-day hunt for youth and non-ambulatory disabled hunters on April 4. Before hunting turkeys in Delaware for the first time, hunters must pass a turkey hunting course approved by the Division of Fish and Wildlife. An online class is now available until May 17 on YouTube. After watching the full course, candidates should take a 20-question exam, available on DNREC’s Fish and Wildlife webpage.
  • Boating Safety Education: Although in-person classes have been canceled, DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife offers four online options to complete the Delaware Boating Safety Education, required for boat operators born on or after Jan. 1, 1978. Choose an option – there’s even a free course – and get ready to enjoy the First State’s waterways today.

DNREC also provides online options for doing business with the department during the coronavirus period, including obtaining licenses and permits, attending virtual public hearings and contacts for various regulatory programs.

For the latest information on COVID-19 in Delaware, visit de.gov/coronavirus.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities, and educates Delawareans about the environment. For more information, visit the website and connect with DNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Contact: Nikki Lavoie, nikki.lavoie@delaware.gov

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DNREC Closes Park and Wildlife Area Amenities; Limits Outdoor Recreation Activities at Beaches

Out-of-state travelers must self-quarantine before visiting state properties

DOVER, Del. – While most state parks, nature and wildlife areas continue to stay open for Delawareans during the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” emergency order from Governor John Carney, many amenities are closed. Current closures include campsites, cabins, cottages, yurts and playgrounds, and now, public restrooms will be closed.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control will close its public restroom facilities, including bathrooms, bathhouses and portable toilets, in state parks, wildlife areas and state boat ramps at the end of the day April 3. All amenities will remain closed until May 15, or until the public health threat has been eliminated. Those who plan to visit any state park, wildlife area or boat ramp should plan accordingly as these amenities will not be available.

“We made the decision to close restrooms, which have multiple public touch points,” Secretary Shawn Garvin said. “Our staff has worked tirelessly to maintain the cleanliness of our restroom facilities, but hand sanitizer and soap has been stolen. It has become more difficult to maintain not only the cleanliness, but the social distancing in the facilities. It is no longer safe for our staff or the public to continue this service.”

The closures come after Governor Carney signed a series of amendments to his State of Emergency declaration this week to slow the spread of COVID-19. These orders include:

  • Anyone who enters Delaware from another state must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days. The order applies to individuals who would like to fish, hunt or intended to visit state parks and wildlife areas, including the state’s golf courses.
  • The use of beaches, including those at state parks, has been restricted to exercising, walking dogs, and surf fishing under severely restricted conditions. Some municipalities have further restrictions.
  • Surf fishing is limited to those with a current surf fishing permit with the following restrictions: Only fishing from vehicles will be allowed, only two persons from the same household may accompany the vehicle and both persons must be actively fishing at all times, with distance between vehicles on the beach of 20 yards.

“The more activities that are allowed, the more crowded our beaches will be, which is contrary to the public health imperative at this time,” Garvin said. “We want to be clear that the following activities are not allowed from beaches: boating, surfing, sea kayaking, skim boarding, fishing from the beach not from a vehicle, football, volleyball and any other activity that would add more people to the beach.”

Although services are limited, outdoor recreation is still available in compliance with site rules, to include:

  • birding
  • cycling
  • disc golf
  • dog walking
  • fishing in bays, ponds, rivers and streams
  • drive-on surf fishing with restrictions
  • hiking
  • hunting
  • jogging or running

The amenities not available, open and/or permitted include, but are not limited to:

  • basketball courts
  • camping
  • gatherings of 10 or more people
  • guided tours, events and programs
  • playgrounds
  • pavilions
  • public park buildings: state park offices, nature centers
  • restrooms
  • rock climbing
  • surfing and skimboarding
  • walk-on surf fishing
  • sea kayaking from the beach
  • sunbathing on the beach
  • Go Ape Course at Lums Pond
  • The Brandywine Zoo

Anyone visiting a state park, wildlife area or boat ramp is required to engage in responsible social distancing practices, avoiding groupings of people. All conditions are subject to change.

DNREC Natural Resources Police officers are conducting routine patrols of state beaches, parks and wildlife areas on foot and with marked patrol vehicles throughout the day. Anyone concerned about an individual or group in any state park or wildlife area may contact DNREC’s Natural Resources Police via Tip411, DNREC’s smartphone app, or by calling the 24-hour DNREC Dispatch Center at 302-739-4580. Tip411 allows the public to easily report concerns. The app is available for free download by searching DENRP via the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store.

Each of the governor’s orders has the force and effect of law. Any failure to comply with the provisions contained in a Declaration of a State of Emergency or any modification to a Declaration of the State of Emergency constitutes a criminal offense.

For the latest information on COVID-19 in Delaware, visit de.gov/coronavirus.

About DNREC

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. For more information, visit the website and connect with DNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contact: Nikki Lavoie, nikki.lavoie@delaware.gov

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Delaware turkey hunting season will open this month with self-serve turkey harvest registration at check stations

Turkey hunt day for youth and non-ambulatory disabled hunters April 4, regular turkey season opens April 11

DOVER, Del. – Delaware’s statewide one-day turkey hunt for youth ages 10-15 and for non-ambulatory disabled hunters requiring a wheelchair for mobility will be held Saturday, April 4, followed by the four-week-long spring turkey hunting season from Saturday, April 11 through Saturday, May 9. Hunting hours are a half-hour before sunrise until 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with no Sunday hunting.

Youth hunters on the one-day turkey hunt must be accompanied by an adult 21 years of age or older who has completed a Delaware-approved turkey hunter safety course and who has a Delaware hunting license or is license-exempt. The accompanying adult may not hunt on the special one-day turkey youth hunt.

Only bearded turkeys may be harvested, and the bag limit is one bearded turkey per hunter each year, regardless of where and when a bird is harvested.

All harvested turkeys must be registered at an authorized turkey check station by 2:30 p.m. on the day the bird was harvested. A list of available check stations is available at 2020 Turkey Check Stations and on page 27 of the Delaware Hunting and Trapping Guide. (Note: Blue Hen Outdoors in Kent County is not available for checking in turkeys). Harvest data collected by the Division of Fish & Wildlife is used to manage Delaware’s wild turkey population.

Due to coronavirus (COVID-19) considerations, self-registration of harvested turkeys has been enabled by DNREC this year at check stations to accommodate required social distancing. Easily identifiable, residential-style mailboxes are located at each check station, with self-registration cards placed inside each mailbox. To complete registration of a harvested turkey, hunters are required to fill out the card as completely as possible, remembering to sign and date the card. After having done so, remove the small bottom portion of the card and retain it as a receipt, placing the top portion of the card in the slot in the back of the mailbox. DNREC advises if multiple hunters are using or waiting to use a  self-check station, hunters should remain the required six feet (or further) apart from one another – or fill out the registration card at your vehicle using your own pen. Check stations will not be weighing wild turkeys harvested by hunters this season.

Hunters who want to have their bird scored and entered into the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) records are reminded to have their turkey’s weight recorded on a certified scale. Please contact your local NWTF representative to have the turkey weighed.

Since all Delaware spring turkey season plans are subject to change based on health and safety considerations during the coronavirus period, any changes will be announced by DNREC and also posted on its website.

Hunting on state wildlife areas and state forests during the spring turkey hunting season requires carrying the public land permit that was issued through a preseason lottery. The permit will specify the public land and season segment/dates that can be hunted. Hunters participating in the special turkey hunt for youth and non-ambulatory disabled hunters on April 4 may hunt without a public land permit on those state wildlife areas and state forests that are open to turkey hunting during the regular turkey hunting season.

Turkey hunters are reminded of the following:

  • A Delaware hunting license or License Exempt Number (LEN) is required to hunt. More information on hunting license requirements is available at Delaware Licenses, where hunting licenses can also be purchased. To register for a LEN, hunters can go to Delaware Hunter and Trapper Registration or call toll free 1-855-335-4868.
  • To purchase a hunting license, hunters born on or after Jan. 1, 1967, must present a basic hunter education safety course card/number.
  • All turkey hunters 13 years of age and older must have completed a Delaware-approved turkey hunter safety course. Turkey hunters under the age of 13 must be accompanied by an adult 21 years of age or older who has completed a Delaware-approved turkey hunter safety course and who has a Delaware hunting license or is license exempt.
  • The Hunter Education/Turkey Education card certifying successful completion of the mandatory turkey course must be carried when turkey hunting.
  • Registered motor vehicles used to access designated wildlife areas owned or managed by the Division of Fish & Wildlife are required to display a Conservation Access Pass (CAP), with a CAP temporarily not required through April 30, 2020.

Due to cancelation of recent in-person turkey hunter safety courses during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) period, the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Hunter Education Program has developed a free online turkey course to be offered until May 17, 2020. Follow these two steps to complete the course:

Students must earn a score of 80% or higher on the test to successfully pass the course. Your test will be reviewed within 24 hours of completion. Students who successfully complete the course will receive an email with instructions on how to print their updated hunter safety card.

For more information on turkey hunting, click 2019-2020 Delaware Hunting & Trapping Guide and Wildlife Area Hunting Maps. More information on turkey hunting is also available by calling the Wildlife Section office at 302-739-9912.

About DNREC

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. For more information, visit the website and connect with DNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contact: Nikki Lavoie, nikki.lavoie@delaware.gov

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Latest emergency order limits recreation options for out-of-state visitors; allows restricted surf fishing

Out-of-state visitors must self-quarantine for 14 days before engaging in fishing, hunting, golf, visiting state parks and wildlife areas

DOVER, Del. – A week after Gov. John Carney issued stay-at-home orders to slow the coronavirus spread, state parks and wildlife areas remain open but now with additional restrictions for residents and visitors. Under the latest directive, anyone who enters Delaware from another state must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days. The order applies to individuals who would like to fish, hunt or intended to visit state parks and wildlife areas, including the state’s golf courses.

The order also allows limited vehicle access to beaches for the purpose of surf fishing for those with a current surf fishing permit. Unlike normal surf fishing, surf fishing under the emergency order will only be allowed with the following restrictions: Only fishing from vehicles will be allowed, only two persons from the same household may accompany the vehicle and both persons must be actively fishing at all times, with distance between vehicles on the beach of 20 yards.

“This change is designed to allow a source of food and a bit of safely distant recreation, but it is not intended to allow the normal type of surf fishing we see with groups of people engaged in non-fishing activities. The beaches are still not a place for numbers of people engaged in social activities,” DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin said. “For anyone coming from out of state with the intent to surf fish, or trout fish, or hunt, or golf, or go to state parks or wildlife areas, please understand the 14-day quarantine applies, which means coming into Delaware to immediately engage in one of those activities and go back home is not allowed.”

For more information, read the full text of the orders from Sunday and Monday.

Sunday’s order has the force and effect of law. Any failure to comply with the provisions contained in a Declaration of a State of Emergency or any modification to a Declaration of the State of Emergency constitutes a criminal offense.

While most state parks and wildlife areas are currently open with the exception of beaches for all but exercise and surf fishing, all state park campsites, cabins, cottages, yurts and playgrounds are closed. Buildings such as park offices and nature centers remain closed, and programs and tours are canceled. The Brandywine Zoo and the Go Ape course at Lums Pond State Park will remain closed at this time.

Upstate trout season is now open to all residents in seven designated trout streams. Ommelanden shooting range near New Castle is now available to residents by pre-scheduled appointment only.

Anyone visiting a park or wildlife area is required to engage in responsible social distancing practices, avoiding groupings of people. All conditions are subject to change.

For the latest information on COVID-19 in Delaware, visit de.gov/coronavirus.

About DNREC

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. For more information, visit the website and connect with DNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contact: Nikki Lavoie, nikki.lavoie@delaware.gov

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