DNREC Division of Parks & Recreation’s economic impact study for Delaware state parks praised at Tower 3 lighting ceremony

LEWES – Against the backdrop of the ceremonial lighting of the World War Two-era Tower 3 at Delaware Seashore State Park, Governor John Carney, DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin and other officials today lauded the positive economic impact DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation has in Delaware. Gov. Carney announced the results of the first-ever independent economic impact study of Delaware’s 16 state parks.

The study, conducted by Rockport Analytics, shows that in FY2016, nearly $400 million was generated by out-of-state park visitors, with spending assessed at about $245 per visitor on various goods and services in the state.

“The economic impact of our state parks on our economy is tremendous,” said Gov. Carney. “Our state parks provide Delawareans and visitors with fun things to do, but also support nearly 6,700 full and part-time jobs across the state and made a significant contribution to state and local taxes. We are proud of our state parks and their positive impact on the economy and quality of life in Delaware.”

The study also shows that:

  • For every dollar of operating general fund tax dollar support state parks receive, $40 was returned in economic activity. That is more than the return of neighboring states, including Maryland ($18), Virginia ($13), and Pennsylvania ($12).
  • If there were no Delaware state parks system, each Delaware household would need to pay an average of $151 in additional state and local taxes in order to maintain current levels of tax receipts.
  • In 2016, nearly $53 million in state and local taxes were generated by the parks system, including $12 million in hotel taxes, $4.7 million in income taxes and $9.5 million in property taxes.

“These statistics support our belief that our parks are a significant economic engine for Delaware,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “The figures show that every time someone visits a state park, they are not only enjoying Delaware’s recreational opportunities, but they are also contributing to the state’s economy. Every dollar the State invests comes back by a multiple of 40 in economic activity in Delaware. Most importantly, parks visitors can be assured that they are supporting all of the amazing programs that our parks provide.”

Tower 3 is one of the landmark concrete WWII-era fire towers used for Delaware’s coastal defense. During the announcement, nine cobalt lights surrounding the tower at the park were lit, the color intended to match the lights on the Indian River Bridge, and to help birds navigate around them.

Ten years in the making, the restoration of Tower 3 was a partnership among the Fort Miles Historical Association, the Delaware Seashore Preservation Foundation and DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation. The foundation provided $130,000 in startup funds, while the association provided the manpower with its “Bunker Busters” cleanup crew. The $60,000 restoration includes new pavement and the large lights around the base of the tower.

The foundation seeks to raise more funds to complete the restoration project; members officially kicked off a fundraising campaign during the event. Members were recently informed by the Longwood Foundation that it will provide a $130,000 matching grant to continue restoration efforts. The foundation now aims to raise another $300,000 to install a staircase inside the tower to provide further access for the public.

Media contact: Beth Shockley, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 48, No. 27

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DNREC, DDA prepare to respond to Delaware Supreme Court’s Dec. 7 decision allowing firearms in state parks and forests

DOVER – The Delaware Supreme Court, by decision dated Dec. 7, 2017 in the matter of Bridgeville Rifle & Pistol Club, LTD, overturned a Superior Court ruling and ended a ban on visitors’ possessing firearms in Delaware’s state parks and state forests. Pursuant to the ruling, visitors may now possess firearms unless they are prohibited by law due to a past conviction for a violent crime, active Protection from Abuse Order, or mental health commitment. Following the Court’s decision to invalidate the existing regulations limiting firearms in state parks and forests, and some Division of Fish & Wildlife properties, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Delaware Department of Agriculture anticipate issuing interim firearm regulations early next week. The interim regulations would respect the State Constitutional provisions on firearms cited by the Court, by implementing the State’s interest in ensuring the safety of the public in a less restrictive manner.

The State anticipates that these interim regulations would prohibit firearms in certain public facilities and designated areas – including park offices, visitors’ centers, bathhouses, zoos, educational facilities, dormitories, group camping areas, swimming pools, guarded beaches, stadiums and water parks. In addition, the regulations would allow holders of valid Delaware concealed carry permits to carry within parks, including designated areas. The regulations would further allow active-duty law enforcement officers and qualified retired officers to carry anywhere within the parks and other areas affected by Supreme Court decision.

Media contact: Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9064

Vol. 47, No. 266

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DNREC Division of Parks & Recreation to offer free admission to Delaware State Parks and the Brandywine Zoo on Black Friday

DOVER – DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation, and Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), invite the public to #OptOutside this Black Friday by visiting Delaware State Parks. This year, visitors can enjoy free entry to 15 state parks on Black Friday, Nov. 24, and the Brandywine Zoo is joining in on the outdoor fun and will also be waiving admission all day.

“The ‘Opt Outside’ event has become a tradition at DNREC’s Delaware State Parks, and the numbers of visitors are increasing each year,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “Between the Brandywine Zoo and 15 parks across the state, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Those willing to forego marathon shopping and opt instead for a day of hiking, biking, and adventuring will find more than 100 miles of trails to explore throughout Delaware, spectacular locations for bird and wildlife watching, scenic beaches, and much more.”

The Opt Outside movement, started by REI in 2015, encourages families and friends across the nation to ditch the retail madness and get outdoors on Black Friday. The 16 million-member outdoor co-op sets an example by shutting its doors, and giving its 12,000 employees a paid day off.

This is the third year that DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation will be participating in the event, along with more than 700 organizations and seven million people nationwide.

All Delaware State Parks’ gates will open at 8 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 24, with the exception of Fort Delaware State Park, which is closed for the season. In addition, park offices will be closed. The Brandywine Zoo will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The public can use the hashtag #OptOutside on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to show support and invite family and friends to join the movement.

Visit destateparks.com for park locations and more fun ideas on how to get outside on Black Friday.

Vol. 47, No. 246

Contact: Beth Shockley, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902.


Governor Carney Helps Delaware Tourism Office, Delaware State Parks Kick Off Beach Season at Delaware Seashore State Park

Tourism, Parks, La Vida Hospitality Group partner on new beach umbrellas, new Big Chill Beach Club

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. – Governor John Carney on Tuesday joined the Delaware Tourism Office, Delaware State Parks, and La Vida Hospitality Group to kick off beach season at Delaware Seashore State Park and promote the state’s tourism economy. Delaware’s tourism industry is the state’s fourth largest private employment sector – supporting 42,000 jobs– and contributes more than $3 billion annually to Delaware’s GDP.

The kick off included an unveiling of new beach umbrellas that will be available to rent this summer season. The umbrellas are emblazoned with the Visit Delaware logo and website, as well as the Delaware State Parks’ logo.

In partnership with Delaware State Parks, La Vida Hospitality Group previewed the new Big Chill Beach Club, a full-service restaurant and bar built atop the park’s existing bathhouse. This is one of the largest public-private partnerships and capital investments in state parks history, with an investment of $1 million. The addition to the state park features 360-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean, Indian River Inlet and Indian River Bay from its large rooftop deck. It has a large, beach-themed “umbrella room,” fire pit, game area and more that create a family atmosphere for visitors.

Click here for photos from the event.

“Delaware’s beaches and state parks attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to our state, are key drivers of our $3.1 billion tourism industry and improve the quality of life for all Delawareans,” said Governor Carney. “Through the dedicated and effective work of the Delaware Tourism Office and Delaware State Parks, we continue to position Delaware as a leading vacation destination, and attract even more visitors and growth to our great state.”

“We’ve had so much success with our Endless Discoveries branding since it was introduced in 2015 – including it being ranked one of the top two statewide tourism efforts in the country,” said Linda Parkowski, Delaware Tourism Director. “These umbrellas are a strong addition to the campaign, which also grew with a new travel guide, a new television commercial and new print/online advertising this year.”

“By increasing the park’s visibility and providing new services and conveniences, DNREC’s Delaware State Parks, the Delaware Tourism Office and La Vida Hospitality Group are helping to ensure visitors to the beaches keep returning year after year,” said Department Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “Delaware’s state park beaches are world-class. And the partnerships we celebrate today will help beachgoers experience the extraordinary beauty to be discovered at Delaware Seashore State Park.”

“We are so excited to be opening and providing a new layer of fun to the experience of coming to Delaware Seashore State Park,” said Josh Grapski, managing partner at La Vida, which owns other beach area restaurants, including Fork & Flask at Nage and Crooked Hammock Brewery and provides the food for Lefty’s Alleys and Eats. “This unique venue with its incredible views will be a wonderful amenity for the park.”

“These partnerships are a clear example of why our state parks received the 2015/16 National Gold Medal Award for the best managed park system in the country,” said Ray Bivens, Delaware State Parks Director. “They’re providing innovative experiences for our visitors and showing, once again, how DNREC’s Delaware State Parks keeps its eye on the future.”


Governor Carney Announces Partnership Between Delaware Tourism, State Parks and Geoswap to Promote Delaware

Photo Caption: (L to R) Ray Bivens, Delaware State Parks Director, Linda Parkowski, Delaware Tourism Director, Governor John Carney, Jason Bamford, GeoSwap Founder.
Photo Caption: (L to R) Ray Bivens, Delaware State Parks Director, Linda Parkowski, Delaware Tourism Director, Governor John Carney, Jason Bamford, GeoSwap Founder.

Newark, Del. – It is now easier than ever before for Delaware visitors and residents to find nearby fun events and activities year-round.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, Governor Carney joined the Delaware Tourism Office (Visit Delaware) and State Parks in announcing their new partnership with Geoswap, a location-based mobile application.

Geoswap was founded by students in the University of Delaware Horn Program in Entrepreneurship. It is a smartphone app that engages and entices users to visit locations and share their experiences by navigating them to events and activities in their proximity.

The new partnership adds geo pins branded with Visit Delaware and State Parks logos to the app. This will help visitors and residents identify must-visit locations and must-attend events, which will keep them engaged while in market.

“This partnership is a great example of how we can work together with entrepeneurs and higher education to the benefit of the state,” said Governor John Carney. “We’re using an innovative tool, developed by student entrepreneurs right here in Delaware, to showcase what Delaware has to offer. It promotes the state’s $3.1 billion tourism industry and highlights Delaware’s award-winning state parks.”

“The tourism landscape is constantly changing, which means the Delaware Tourism Office is always looking for innovative ways to reach consumers,” said Linda Parkowski, Delaware Tourism Director. “UD Horn Entrepreneurship has put ideas at DTO’s fingertips, including Geoswap, which will further share Delaware’s endless discoveries with visitors and residents.”

“Delaware State Parks and the Delaware Tourism Office are embracing the 21st Century,” said Ray Bivens, State Parks Director. “We are meeting people where they are – on their phones – and providing them easy to access information they can use to find fun.”

Jason Bamford, Jordan Gonzalez and Keith Doggett came up with the idea for Geoswap in the dorms at UD more than two years ago. The app will help people escape so-called FOMO (fear of missing out) by making sure they are aware if something great is happening right by them.

“High-quality, reliable information is essential to making Geoswap worthwhile for its users,” said Bamford. “By partnering with Visit Delaware and State Parks, we can ensure that here in the state. We have worked to create a viable product, and it’s very gratifying to have these state agencies get behind us and show their support in this way.”

The young company and its team have been steadily gaining momentum recently. Two weeks ago Geoswap came in first place at Hen Hatch and was awarded $21,000 in prize money. Geoswap was also a finalist last month at e-Fest, a celebration of student entrepreneurship hosted by the founder of Best Buy.

“The efforts of these young entrepreneurs are truly impressive,” said Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Delaware). “As Delaware Labor Secretary and now as a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, I’ve seen how educational opportunities, like the ones provided at UD, can enable students to succeed in a competitive economy.”

“I continue to be impressed by the successes of our students in the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship, and Geoswap is another example of how our students’ work can benefit the people of Delaware,” said UD Provost Domenico Grasso. “We emphasize the importance of community engagement and innovative thinking with all of our students, and this latest partnership with the state is part of that continuing effort.”

“The success of the Geoswap team illustrates again how Horn Entrepreneurship is a resource for students and the community,” said Daniel Freeman, Director of UD Horn Program in Entrepreneurship. “Students gain necessary knowledge and experience, and local agencies, businesses and organizations have another place to turn for new talent and opportunities.”

Information from Visit Delaware and State Parks is available on Geoswap now. The app is free and can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.