Sassafras Landing boat ramp to close temporarily for habitat project construction

BETHANY BEACH – DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife announced today that the boat ramp at Sassafras Landing, located within the Assawoman Wildlife Area, will be closed from Monday through Thursday during a three-week period beginning Monday, June 3. The temporary closure is needed to provide construction access for a shoreline stabilization project. The Sassafras Landing boat ramp will be open with limited parking Friday through Sunday during this time period.

The shoreline stabilization project will protect an adjacent pond managed for freshwater plants attractive to water birds, and will stabilize and enhance the shoreline with native marsh plants. A series of 50- to 100-foot long rows of rocks will be placed in the water parallel to the shoreline, with clean sand placed between the rock and the shoreline where native marsh grasses will be planted to protect the shoreline and provide valuable wildlife habitat. The project will decrease wave energy to reduce shoreline erosion. The rock rows will have small gaps installed to allow fish and terrapin passage.

The boat ramps and crabbing piers at both Mulberry and Strawberry Landings within the Assawoman Wildlife Area will be open during the construction project.

For more information, please call the Wildlife Section at 302-739-9912.

Media Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902


DNREC introduces Delaware Living Shorelines Monitoring Framework to help gauge success of shoreline restoration projects

DOVER – The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Watershed Stewardship in partnership with public and private environmental organizations have introduced the Delaware Living Shorelines Monitoring Framework, a tool to help landowners, professionals, and scientists develop plans for gauging the success of living shoreline projects installed throughout the state.

Living shorelines are a natural and effective way to stabilize a shoreline, reduce erosion, and provide beneficial habitat in coastal environments. Living shorelines provide a natural alternative to hard shoreline stabilization methods such as bulkheads and riprap, with the “softer” alternatives offering numerous benefits over hard stabilization options, including providing wildlife habitat and runoff remediation.

The monitoring framework was created by the Delaware Living Shorelines Committee, comprising professionals from DNREC, National Estuary Programs, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and private engineering and consulting companies. The committee provides practitioners and researchers the opportunity to discuss current living shoreline projects in Delaware, along with upcoming projects, and enables them to stay informed on new policies or techniques.

“Living shorelines are the foundation of a unique, natural environmental strategy to counter erosion. As the strategy for installing these evolves, the monitoring methodology created by the Delaware Living Shorelines Committee will help ensure the creation of more effective and resilient shorelines in the future,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin.

The Living Shoreline Monitoring Framework outlines how to identify and prioritize living shoreline project goals – such as shoreline stabilization, habitat creation, and water quality improvement – and other objectives. The step-by-step framework helps a user assess whether a living shoreline is developing correctly for each goal, and how to manage a site better if the living shoreline’s performance is lagging. For example, if vegetation is not growing as it should, the framework spells steps that can be taken to improve growing conditions.

The monitoring framework can be found on the Delaware Living Shorelines website, under “Additional Resources – Research.” The document allows for varying levels of expertise, technology, expense, and effort to create a custom monitoring plan based on the goals of each project or site. The resulting monitoring plan will tell a user what information to collect about a project, and how and when to collect it throughout the year.

To learn more about living shorelines, or information on how to join the Delaware Living Shorelines Committee, or to learn if your property is suitable for a living shoreline, please visit https://www.delawarelivingshorelines.org/ or contact Alison Rogerson, DNREC Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program, at Alison.Rogerson@delaware.gov or Danielle Kreeger at dkreeger@delawareestuary.org.

Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 49, No. 8


DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation receives land parcel donation adding wetlands to Fork Branch Nature Preserve in Dover

DOVER – DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation, in partnership with the Kent County Conservancy, announced today that it has secured two wetland parcels formerly owned by the McClements family of Dover, to become part of the Fork Branch Nature Preserve. The two parcels, one almost three acres in size, the other just over 2½ acres, are located adjacent to the Anne McClements Woods tract of the 247-acre Fork Branch Nature Preserve. Both properties were donated by the children of Dr. James and Anne McClements, Mary Jane, Nancy, Jimmy, Walter and Bill McClements, in their parents’ memory.

The land donation was initiated by the Kent County Conservancy, a local non-profit preservation organization, working with DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation, which accepted the donation in memoriam to the McClements, and expanding the Fork Branch Nature Preserve.

DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin joined Governor John Carney and other officials last year, at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Fork Branch Trail, located in the Anne McClements Woods tract of the Fork Branch Nature Preserve, which is open with free access to visitors.

The two donated parcels for the Fork Branch Nature Preserve are located on Kenton Road. One parcel, entailing a stream bed, is 2.93 acres, while the other is also a wetland area of 2.69 acres. The McClements’ family gift of the two parcels will help protect and buffer the preserve’s wetland habitats, and the wildlife species the habitats support.

“These additions to the preserve do not just expand its boundaries, but will also help Delaware achieve the state’s broader goal of improved water quality and healthy wildlife habitat,” said Secretary Garvin. “We thank the McClements family for supporting these efforts, and the Kent County Conservancy, for being instrumental in facilitating the donation of the two parcels to the State of Delaware.”

“The Fork Branch watershed has been our highest preservation target,” said Gerald Street, president of the Kent County Conservancy. “We were delighted to facilitate this public-private partnership. The McClements family continues to set a magnificent example of how this can work. We also appreciate the support and advocacy of Tom Burns, who worked with the conservancy on behalf of the McClements family.”

The Fork Branch Nature Preserve is one of Dover’s last remaining natural areas, and is known to contain a unique stand of old growth American beech, a wooded stream corridor, and several rare and threatened plant species. The preserve is located near the corner of Kenton and West Dennys roads, along the Maidstone Branch in the St. Jones River watershed.

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

Vol. 49, No.11


DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation reminds public that dunes in state parks are closed to sledding and snowboarding

REHOBOTH BEACH – DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation reminds residents and visitors that sledding, snowboarding, and other recreational activities are not allowed on Delaware’s dunes.

Dunes contain fragile wildlife habitat and also provide protection for the beaches and the communities that border them.

Besides asking the public to help protect the dunes, the Division of Parks & Recreation also advises that, except for marked crossings, the dunes in Cape Henlopen and Delaware Seashore state parks are closed year-round to pedestrian traffic and recreational activities.

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

Vol. 49, No. 5

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DNREC, federal, local and conservation partners gather to celebrate completion of Mispillion Harbor restoration

MISPILLION HARBOR – Against a backdrop of migrating shorebirds and spawning horseshoe crabs on the beach at Mispillion Harbor, DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin was joined by U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester to celebrate the completion of the Mispillion Harbor restoration. The three-year project restored the area in the wake of damage inflicted by a series of coastal storms including 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, and built resiliency against future storms impacting this vitally important habitat. Also joining the Secretary and the Congressional Delegation were U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber, and National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Vice President of Conservation Programs Eric Schwaab.

Who is in the Photo?
Located east of Milford within the Milford Neck Wildlife Area, Mispillion Harbor is globally significant for the high numbers of migrating shorebirds that stop there each spring to refuel by feeding on the eggs of spawning horseshoe crabs, with both species favoring the harbor’s sheltered sandy beaches and calm waters than other less-sheltered sites along Delaware’s Bayshore. Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) led the task of restoring balance to this critical habitat, as well as planning the restoration of the surrounding Milford Neck tidal marsh, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), The Nature Conservancy, and Delaware Wild Lands, with support from other conservation partners and local community members.

Federal funds totaling $5.8 million through USFWS and NFWF were paired with $2 million in state matching funds to complete restoration of Mispillion Harbor and to create a longer-term plan for restoring the integrity of Milford Neck’s marshlands and forest habitat.

“I want to commend everyone involved – the Congressional Delegation, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, and all of our other conservation partners – for their support in bringing this important project to completion,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “Through this partnership, we have restored one of the Delaware Bayshore’s most extraordinary places. Mispillion Harbor can now continue to provide safe haven to migrating shorebirds, including the threatened red knot, and to the spawning horseshoe crabs whose eggs fuel their long journey, as well as drawing visitors from around the world to observe the vital interaction of these species.”

“The funding that the congressional delegation worked hard to acquire for Delaware projects after Hurricane Sandy not only saved this area, but saved a part of Delaware’s tourism economy,” said Senator Tom Carper, ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the U.S. Senate. “That money was put to good use. We didn’t just fix the damage, we created a long-term plan to mitigate damage from future storms. Some people say we can’t have a strong economy and healthy environment at the same time, but I believe this project is a great example of how we cannot have one without the other.”

“Delaware’s wetlands and coastal habitats are not only beautiful, they’re also unique parts of our ecosystem and critical to our economy,” said Senator Chris Coons. “In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, these wetlands were truly at risk, and I’m so proud of everyone at the state, federal, and local level who came together to protect the Mispillion Harbor Reserve, the Milford Neck conservation area, and all the creatures who call these places home.”
“This vital conservation project is a great example of steps we can take to restore ecological balance along our coast. With the completion of the Mispillion Harbor Restoration, horseshoe crabs now have a new beach to spawn their young, red knots have a place to refuel on their journey north, and Delaware is revitalizing its pristine coastline,” said Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester. “It’s only through the continued efforts of local, state, and federal collaborators that we can both save endangered species and preserve the First State’s beauty for all to enjoy.”

In Mispillion Harbor, habitat restoration work began in 2016 and was completed this spring, including:

  • The existing rock structure – originally constructed in the 1980s to protect the harbor – was raised by an average of 3.5 feet to a height of 6 feet over a distance of 2,300 linear feet, and was extended westward by an additional 400 feet, tying into the existing dune. To increase stability, the base of the structure also was broadened by 18 feet.
  • Sandy beach areas were expanded by adding 40,000 cubic yards of sand along the inside of the rock structure between the north groin and south groin, and on the south side of the south groin.
  • Five new groins ranging from 80-150 feet were constructed perpendicular to the rock structure to hold the sand in place.
  • Swains Beach was restored by adding 500 cubic yards of sand, after removing materials used as riprap by a previous owner, including: concrete waste, two truckloads of old tires, two truckloads of metal debris and other waste. Also, volunteers planted 5,000 beach grass plugs to help hold the sand in place.

For the Milford Neck conservation area, hydrodynamic modeling, restoration alternatives, and a restoration plan were collaboratively developed by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and Delaware Wild Lands, who collectively own 10,000 acres of Milford Neck, including the state-owned Milford Neck Wildlife Area.

“The success of this collaborative restoration effort has played out this spring on the shoreline of Mispillion Harbor, with horseshoe crabs spawning on the beaches and shorebirds eating their fill of eggs,” said Regional Director Weber, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This project truly exemplifies the power of partnerships. When we combine our investments, energy, and innovation to restore Mispillion Harbor and build a stronger Atlantic Coast, we can accomplish far more for wildlife and people than any single agency or organization can accomplish alone.”

In addition to supporting the recovery of the federally-listed threatened red knot by helping provide a stable food source for shorebirds in a protected area, and offering a safe haven for spawning horseshoe crabs, the work at Mispillion Harbor, Milford Neck, and associated navigable waterways also benefits local residents and visitors.

Restoration work to protect Mispillion Harbor and to maintain tidal flow through coastal marshes, supports local communities and enhances recreational and commercial boating and fishing access, as well as other outdoor opportunities in the area, including:

  • Public boat ramps at Cedar Creek a half-mile upstream from the harbor and on the Mispillion River in Milford 10 miles upstream;
  • The DuPont Nature Center, which overlooks the harbor with its deck offering a sweeping view of the spring spectacle of shorebirds and horseshoe crabs, is owned and operated by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife, and attracts thousands of local, regional, national, and international visitors each year;
  • Local businesses near the harbor – Cedar Creek Marina, a commercial marina and dry-dock facility, and Delaware Bay Launch Services, which operates a fleet of boats servicing ship and barge traffic on the Delaware Bay and River headed to ports in Philadelphia, Trenton, Camden, and Wilmington; and
  • Farmlands and residential areas, notably the nearby Town of Slaughter Beach, which has more than 350 homes, a volunteer fire company, and public recreation facilities including beach access, a picnic pavilion, public restrooms, and interpretive signs. The town serves the region by supporting school and nature center programs, fishing, wildlife viewing, kayaking, and other recreational uses of the beach and bay.

Restoration work planned for Milford Neck will expand on the benefits from the Mispillion Harbor restoration, further facilitating movement of storm and spring tide waters throughout the tidal marsh system woven into the area of Slaughter Beach, Milford Neck, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, and other state and conservation partner-owned properties as well as residential and agricultural areas.

Media Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902