Beach Restrictions To Be Lifted, Visitor Numbers Limited In State Parks For Memorial Day Weekend

Delawareans will resume activities such as swimming and sunbathing on Delaware State Park beaches for Memorial Day weekend, with existing restrictions on beaches being lifted by the Governor effective Friday, May 22 at 5 p.m. Out-of-state visitors who have maintained a 14-day quarantine since entering the state are also allowed to resume activity on Delaware beaches.

Since March, beach activities had been limited to exercising, dog-walking and restricted surf fishing as part of precautions against the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Adequate social distancing on the beaches remain a concern and will be closely monitored as the restrictions are modified. 

To carry out Gov. Carney’s phased reopening of Delaware beaches, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced the following for state parks:

Current restrictions on beach activity will be lifted starting 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22. Sunbathing, swimming, picnicking, surfing, kayaking, walk-on surf fishing and other activities will be allowed to resume for Delawareans and for those from out-of-state who have quarantined 14 days.

At least 6-foot distance will be required on beaches among those from different households, and groups of visitors from the same household may be no larger than 10. Masks or face coverings are encouraged to be worn on beaches.

Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore and Fenwick Island state parks will have capacity limits – between 50 and 70% of parking spaces – that will be enforced at entrances and with closure of parking spaces.

Visitors must bring face coverings, such as masks or bandanas, with them when entering state parks. Within state parks, face coverings must be worn in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as in bathhouses, park offices, concession buildings, boat docks, and trails and paths where others are present.

Beach-area bathrooms and bathhouses will open May 22. Most bathrooms in other state parks around the state will also open, but some will remain closed due to distancing/cleaning considerations.

Cleaning services will be increased to multiple times per day at all open bathrooms and bathhouses.

For surf fishing, the emergency limit on number of persons per vehicle will be lifted and now only one person will need to be actively fishing. But 20-foot distancing between vehicles will be required and drive-on beaches may be closed by officers to additional vehicles when the carrying capacity to implement social distancing is not possible.

State Park offices will open Thursday, May 21, and will require credit cards for purchases. Face masks must be worn when entering park offices.

Visitors are encouraged to purchase Annual Passes to avoid anticipated delays for daily entrance payments. 

Annual Pass and Surf-Fishing Permit sales resume availability at all park offices starting Thursday, and are available online at destateparks.com.

Daily park entrance fees will only be collected via the automated credit card machines or self-registration envelopes provided at park entrances for those without annual passes or permits.

Camping and pavilion reservations at all state parks have been canceled through May 31. Full refunds will be issued, and no further action is required by the customer. Should the Governor’s state of emergency closure of camping be extended beyond June 1, further cancellations will occur at that time.

State park daily entrance fees for vehicles registered in Delaware are $4 at inland parks and $5 at ocean parks. Fees for out-of-state vehicles are $8 at inland parks and $10 at ocean parks. Annual park entrance passes are $35 for Delawareans and $70 for out-of-state, with discounted rates for military and for those on state or federal assistance, including those on unemployment. For information on pass and permit fees, go to destateparks.com/Know/passestagsfees.

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. The Division of Parks and Recreation oversees more than 26,000 acres in 17 state parks and the Brandywine Zoo. For more information, visit the website and connect with DNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contacts: Shauna McVey, shauna.mcvey@delaware.gov or Nikki Lavoie, nikki.lavoie@delaware.gov.


DNREC groundbreaking ceremony for new Fork Branch Trail held in Dover

DOVER – Governor John Carney was joined by DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin, Kent County Tourism Director Wendie Vestfall, other state and city officials, and members of the conservation community, to break ground for the new Fork Branch Trail in Dover.

(L to R) Shawn M. Garvin, Jan “Running Dove” Durham, Dick “Quiet Thunder” Gilbert, and Tony “Painted Pony” Durham

“Our state’s trails are not just good for trail users, they’re also good for our economy,” said Governor Carney. “Trails in the First State are drawing more and more visitors to Delaware, where tourism accounts for $3.1 billion in economic activity. Trail-related activities are the number one outdoor recreation activity in the First State, and we’re taking another step forward as we break ground on the new Fork Branch Trail.”

The Fork Branch Nature Preserve is one of Dover’s last remaining natural areas – a 247-acre property that contains a unique stand of old growth American beech, a wooded stream corridor, and several rare and threatened plant species. The preserve is located at the corner of Kenton and West Denneys roads, along the Maidstone Branch in the St. Jones River Watershed.

“The Fork Branch Trail will offer an excellent opportunity for families and children to get outdoors, enjoy nature, and be physically active,” said Secretary Garvin. “The trail offers users an urban oasis of nature located within the city limits of Dover. Soon, everyone will have the chance to marvel at the natural gifts of a large, mature forest in this densely populated area.”

The Division of Parks & Recreation will construct, manage, and maintain the accessible, pedestrian-only trail. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of this year or spring of 2018, depending on conditions. The new trail will be 5-feet wide, and loop approximately 1 mile through the pristine preserve providing opportunities to experience native fauna and beautiful landscapes. Depending on conditions, the trail may be open as soon as the end of this year.

More trails for walking, hiking, biking, jogging and related activities have ranked consistently as the highest outdoor recreation need identified by Delawareans throughout the state. The Fork Branch Trail adds to the growing need for recreational opportunities for the city of Dover and Kent County.

Vol. 47, No. 221

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


State Legislators, DNREC Secretary Garvin Open 2017 Fort Delaware Season

DELAWARE CITY – Surrounded by children from the Delaware City Police Athletic League (PAL), State Senator Nicole Poore, State Representative Valerie Longhurst, DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin, representatives from the Delaware River and Bay Authority, and Ray Bivens, director of DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation, today cut the ribbon to celebrate the start of the Forts Ferry Crossing service and the first day of 2017 season at the Civil War-era attraction, Fort Delaware.

The Forts Ferry Crossing’s vessel, the Delafort, has transported visitors from the docks in Delaware City across the Delaware River to Fort Delaware since 1997. The ferry service connects Delaware City, DE with Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island and Fort Mott in Pennsville, NJ.

“We’re celebrating not only the opening of the season for historic Fort Delaware but also this year’s maiden voyage of the Forts Ferry, which is an exciting and fun experience in itself,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “Amazingly, over the years of our longstanding partnership with the Delaware River and Bay Authority, more than 100,000 visitors have been ferried to the fort, and we thank the DRBA for making this unique adventure possible. Fort Delaware is where history comes alive and it’s a spectacular tourist stop along the Delaware Bayshore Byway, and an important part of our Delaware Bayshore initiative.”

“The importance of tourism to Delaware’s economy cannot be overstated,” said State Senator Nicole Poore. “Delaware is blessed with a variety of events, activities and attractions for residents and visitors alike.  I’m particularly proud of our state parks system and Fort Delaware is at the top of list.  What a treasure!”

“Fort Delaware is one of 17 state parks in Delaware and each has something unique and special to offer our residents and visitors,” said State Representative Valerie Longhurst. “Fort Delaware is a legendary Civil War-era attraction and the Forts Ferry Crossing is a time machine transporting its passengers back to a bygone era.  It’s a history lesson you’ll never forget.”

Located on Pea Patch Island, Fort Delaware, part of DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation, has been restored and comes alive with interpreters who demonstrate what life was like during the Civil War era. Visitors experience Civil War life through living history and museum theater programs at the fortress that was once home to nearly 33,000 prisoners, garrison, and civilians.

From there, a short ferry ride across the Delaware River is Fort Mott, N.J. Fort Mott was fully garrisoned until 1922 and was staffed by a detachment of caretakers until the post was abandoned in 1944.  Today, the Ordnance Warehouse holds a small museum with displays on the fort as well as on the local area.  Guided tours are available upon request of the Fire Control Tower that rises 53 feet into the air, keeping a watchful eye on the approaches of the Delaware River.

Following a self-guided tour of Fort Mott, visitors can take a short walk to Finn’s Point National Cemetery, the final resting-place for 2,400 Confederate prisoners who died at Fort Delaware. Admission to Fort Mott is free.

The Forts Ferry Crossing will operate on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays through mid-June. Beginning June 14 and continuing through Labor Day, the Forts Ferry Crossing will begin operating Wednesday through Sunday and holidays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  The cost is $12 for adults and $7 for children 2-12.  Children under the age of 2 are free.  The cost includes admission to Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island. Visitors take a one-half-mile ferry ride from Delaware City to Pea Patch Island. A jitney provides transport from the island dock to the granite and brick fortress.  Fort Mott is free. Additional information on the Forts Ferry Crossing is available at www.fortsferrycrossing.com

About the Delaware River and Bay Authority

The DRBA, a bi-state governmental agency created by Compact in 1962, owns and operates the Delaware Memorial Bridge, the Cape May- Lewes Ferry, and the Forts Ferry Crossing. The DRBA also manages corporate and aviation properties through its economic development powers – two airports in New Jersey (Millville Airport and Cape May Airport) and three in Delaware (New Castle Airport, Civil Air Terminal and Delaware Airpark). All DRBA operating revenues are generated through the bridge, ferry and airport facilities.  For more information, please visit www.drba.net.

About Fort Mott State Park

Fort Mott was fully garrisoned until 1922 and was staffed by a detachment of caretakers until the post was abandoned in 1944.  Today, the Ordnance Warehouse holds a small museum with displays on the fort as well as on the local area.  Guided tours are available upon request of the Fire Control Tower that rises 53 feet into the air, keeping a watchful eye on the approaches of the Delaware River.  Following your self-guided tour of the Fort, take a short walk to Finn’s Point National Cemetery, the final resting-place for 2,400 Confederate prisoners who died at Fort Delaware.

About Fort Delaware State Park

Located on Pea Patch Island, Fort Delaware has been restored and is alive with interpreters who put a human face on history.  Visitors experience Civil War life through living history and museum theater programs at the fortress that was once home to nearly 33,000 prisoners, garrison, and civilians. Prepare to be awed by its 32-foot-tall, 30-foot-thick granite walls with gun emplacements and an authentic 8″ cannon—the only cannon of its kind still fired in America.   A jitney provides transport from the island dock to the granite and brick fortress.

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Dunes in state parks closed to sledding and snowboarding

REHOBOTH BEACH – With predictions of snow in the forecast, DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation reminds residents and visitors that dunes should not be used for sledding or snowboarding.

“Dunes contain fragile habitat and provide protection for the beaches and the communities that border them,” said Pat Cooper, Cape Henlopen State Park superintendent. “Recent storms have already caused some damage, so we’re asking the public to help protect the dunes in our ocean parks.”

Except for marked crossings, dunes are closed year-round to pedestrian traffic and activities in Cape Henlopen and Delaware Seashore State Parks.

Vol. 47, No. 3

Contact: Beth Shockley, Public Affairs, 302-739-9902 or Pat Cooper, Delaware State Parks, 302-227-2800.

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Delaware State Parks launches new Children in Nature initiative with monthly outdoor themes

DOVER – In an effort to encourage more Delaware children to enjoy the outdoors and outdoor-related activity year-round, the Delaware Children in Nature Coalition, of which DNREC is a member, will highlight an “Outdoor Theme of the Month” beginning in January 2017. Using the Delaware Children in Nature Outdoor Bill of Rights as a template, an “Outdoor Right,” or theme, will be selected each month.

The Delaware Children in Nature Bill of Rights is a list of 10 “Outdoor Rights” – which will be used as themes for each month. The themes will include: “Go Outside and Play,” “Climb a Tree,” “Plant a Seed,” “Catch a Fish,” and others. The theme for January corresponds with the kickoff of the entire 10-month initiative, “Go Outside and Play.”

“The goal of this initiative is to engage children with their surroundings by providing meaningful outdoor experiences and promoting healthy lifestyles through outdoor activity,” said DNREC Children in Nature Coordinator Angel Burns. “The Delaware Children in Nature Coalition sees Delaware as a leader in environmental education for Delaware’s youth.”

Events and themes will be announced on the Delaware Children in Nature Facebook page and the Children in Nature Twitter page (@DelawareCIN) where the public is invited to “like” and “follow.” The initiative will continue until October 2017, which is Children in Nature Month. A list of themes and their corresponding months can be found at dnrec.alpha.delaware.gov/children-in-nature/.

The Children in Nature Coalition began as a partnership between DNREC, the Department of Education and Nemours Health and Wellness. DNREC is an active member in the coalition. The coalition welcomes the community, businesses and other organizations to participate in the statewide initiative to get children outdoors and in nature.

Organizations or groups that have existing programs that connect with healthy outdoor activity and getting outside, or an educational program involving Children in Nature, can learn more about joining the coalition by contacting Angel Burns at 302-893-2413 or angel.burns@delaware.gov.

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

Vol. 46, No. 429