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Delaware's Open Space, Trails, and Greenways Programs

From the newsletterof the Delaware Council on Greenways and Trails and the Delaware Division of Parks & Recreation (August 1996).

By Ron Vickers

Map of Deleware

Parks, open space, natural areas, forests, wildlife habitat, greenways, and waterways are all part of Delaware's environmental legacy - a legacy which is part of everyone's quality of life. Delaware's outdoors provide a retreat and escape from the work-a-day world, and a haven for wildlife. Delaware is a diverse state with many types of conservation and recreation lands, from barrier beach islands to undisturbed marshes to rocky streams to coastal plain ponds to forestland to rare species sites.

Delaware's Open Space Program coordinates state acquisition of parks, fish and wildlife areas, forests, nature preserves, and cultural sites. Twenty state resource areas and specific stand alone sites have been designated. These encompass existing protected state, federal, local and private conservation organization lands and inholdings and additions to these areas. These state resource areas include some of the finest examples of Delaware's diverse natural and cultural heritage: unspoiled wetlands, mature forests, rare plant and animal habitats, geological and archaeological sites, open space for recreation and greenway connectors. Collectively, these stateresource areas and stand alone sites comprise over 250,000 acres, representing 19% of Delaware's land base.

The Open Space Program formally began with the passage of the Delaware Land Protection Act in July 1990. This law establishes the Open Space Program within the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's Division of Parks and Recreation. It establishes a 9-member Open Space Council to advise the Secretary of the Department as to the implementation and financing of the program and to recommend specific land purchases.

Quarterly meetings are held to review properties brought before the Council for consideration for acquisition. These properties are first selected and recommended by an Interagency Working Group. Recommendations are based on arating of natural, cultural, recreational, and special attributes and a consideration of land use plans and purchase options.

The funding for the acquisition of open space properties comes from land and water conservation bonds, a portion of the realty transfer tax and legislative appropriations. To date approximately $30,000,000 of bonds have been issued. An additional $20,000,000 appropriation was received in July1994. Current projects are funded from the 21st Century Fund. Program funds are used for acquisition of properties within State Resource areas.

Between July 1990 and May 1996 over 13,175 acres were protected through fee simple purchases, bargain sales, donations, and conservation easements. The total value of this acreage was $84,940,175; however, only $56,470,347 was expended to protect these lands. Of the expended funds, only $47,000,540 was from the Open Space Program. For every $1.00 of Open Space Program money spent, $1.81 worth of land was protected. Additionally, $3,000,000 were expended on local park and greenway acquisition, planning and development projects.

Bancroft Parkway - An Historic Greenway

by Elke E. McGinley, Woodlawn Trustees

Bancroft Parkway, a 160-foot-wide boulevard lined with majestic trees, extends across the western part of Wilmington, connecting Rockford Park in the north with Canby Park in the southwest. The parkway is a delight during all seasons: spring when the trees sprout and the leaves have that "lacy look", summer when all is lush and green, fall with glorious bursts of color, and winter when the bare trees stretch tall and stark against the snow-covered ground.

William Poole Bancroft (1835-1928), for whom the parkway is named and who is remembered as the "father of the Wilmington park system," had the plan for the parkway prepared in 1911. To anyone easily discouraged, this project would have presented insurmountable obstacles. In a direct line of the planned parkway was a stone quarry, a deep gully, and a rubbish dump. The land had to be acquired; two cemeteries had to be moved; and numerous houses had to be moved. It took more than 20 years to complete the parkway and over 50 years for the lot development along the parkway to be completed. This is a clear example of what vision, foresight, and unlimited patience can accomplish over a period of time.

The parkway was complete in all but one respect - between 8th and 9th Streets the plan contemplated a diagonal bridge over the railroad. By the end of the 1930s, the State Highway Department was on the verge of building the bridge, under an agreement whereby Woodlawn Trustees, Inc. (created by Mr. Bancroft to carry forward specific housing and park objectives) would give the land for the State Motor Vehicle Division's lanes and offices. War in Europe and a shortage of steel interrupted the project. The state bought the land, and the inspection lanes were located there. The abutments for the bridge and part of the diagonal approach remain in place waiting for completion.

During recent years Woodlawn purchased two key pieces of property necessary for the connection. Woodlawn envisions a pedestrian bridge, a few trees, and benches inviting cyclists and pedestrians to cross and continue along the parkway to Canby Park. In the future, this may also connect to walkways planned by the Riverfront Development Corporation.

The motor vehicle lanes are scheduled to move out of Wilmington by 1998, and Woodlawn is advocating community use for the site. The building, with easy access and available parking, is an ideal location for a community library. The diagonal bridge and pathway would invite cyclists and pedestrians to the library, nearby stores, restaurants, and businesses.

Bancroft Parkway connects a wide variety of neighborhoods and adds to the quality of life for all who live or work nearby. It stands today as an example of quality urban planning and serves as a vital link of green open spaces in northern Delaware. For more information about Bancroft Parkway, call Elke McGinley at Woodlawn Trustees at (302) 655-6215.

From Fortresses to Broiler Chickens... The Coastal Heritage Greenway

By Susan Moerschel and Ann Marie Noone, Greenway Program, DNREC

Delaware's Coastal Heritage Greenway celebrates the diverse history of Delaware's waterfront ranging from colonial settlement in 1631 to industrialization in the 20th century. A region rich in diversity, the Coastal Heritage Greenway spans the coast of the Delaware Bay and River and the Atlantic Ocean, from Fox Point State Park north of Wilmington, to the state line in Fenwick Island. Several themes run through the history of the Delaware coast, overlapping and connecting people and places, and continuing to influence life in the region.

Cultural Richness

The first identifiable theme is cultural richness, characterized by five distinct periods of sovereignty held by four different nations in Delaware's history. A wealth of monuments along the coast, including Fort Christina in Wilmington and the Devries Monument in Lewes, honor Delaware's British, Dutch, Swedish and American heritage.

Ecological Life

The Greenway is ecologically rich, home to two national wildlife refuges, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Additionally, the state owns several wildlife areas along the coast, totaling almost 25,000 acres. All the protected lands along Delaware's coast are on the Atlantic Flyway and are vital to the migration of birds. In particular, the Delaware Bay is the population center for the American horseshoe crab, whose eggs are a valuable energy source for the migrating birds. Also, the coastal wetlands provide natural habitat to numerous animal and plant species.

Coastal Defense

Several remaining cities and forts have been instrumental to the protection of the Delaware River and Bay, an important estuary in the defense of the United States. For example, Lewes, located just west of Cape Henlopen, defended the Delaware coast in the War of 1812, when the British blockaded the Bay and bombarded the town. Listed on the National Register of historic places, Fort Delaware, on Pea Patch Island, housed Confederate prisoners of war during the Civil War. This fort, along with Fort Saulsbury, stood strong in protecting the Delaware Estuary in World Wars I and II. Later, Fort Miles, opened in 1941 at Cape Henlopen at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, was instrumental to the defense of the area throughout World War II.


While Wilmington has been the state's industrial center, other cities haven't escaped the march of progress. As early as the 17th century and up until World War II, shipbuilding was one of the state's largest industries, centered in Wilmington and further south in Milford. Canning, an industry evoked from the state's agricultural production, contributed to the statewide economy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. More recently, the chemical industry, with the growth of the DuPont Co., has become one of Delaware's largest industries.


Believe it or not, before Georgia took the title, Delaware was once the peach capital of the country. Its reign came to an end when, in the late 19th century, "peach yellows" disease killed off most of the bountiful orchards. However, in the 1940s, a new agricultural enterprise emerged when Sussex County became the largest broiler chicken producing county in the country. Agriculture continues to be vital to the economy of Delaware, especially in Kent and Sussex counties.

Resort Life

Not surprisingly, resort beaches along the Delaware River and Bay have always been popular vacation spots, and with improved transportation beginning in the late l9th century, Delaware's ocean resorts have grown in popularity. Today Rehoboth Beach is the largest of these resorts, teeming with visitors in warm weather.

Maritime History

The commercial fishing industry has long been important to eastern Kent and Sussex Counties, and oysters and muskrats have been popular treats. As well, remnants of past port towns lie along the Greenway, and lighthouses which aided many a vessel navigating the rough Delaware Bay and River add to this maritime atmosphere. Many more sites reminiscent of these themes lie along the path of the Coastal Heritage Greenway as the Delaware Bay and River have been central to the rich heritage of Delaware's coast. For more information about the Greenway, including how to get an Auto Tour booklet, contact the State of Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation at (302) 739-5285.

The East Coast Greenway

by Karen Votava, East Coast Greenway Alliance

Tired of the boring drive along I-95? Would you rather hike or cycle from Philadelphia to Wilmington or from Maine to Florida along a safe, scenic pathway? Rising to this challenge, cyclists, hikers, and other trail enthusiasts have joined forces to create their own I-95, a 2,500-mile multi-user trail connecting cities along the densely-populated Eastern seaboard. The East Coast Greenway will be the nation's first long-distance, inter-urban, non-motorized transportation corridor. By connecting existing and planned trails that are locally owned and managed and filling in the missing links, this trail is fast becoming a reality.

The five year old East Coast Greenway Alliance (ECGA) has set the vision and is coordinating efforts to create this national greenway, an urban version of the Appalachian Trail. Working through East Coast Greenway committees being established in each state, the ECGA is partnering with local trails organizations, user groups, and government agencies to define the best route, advance trail segments, and officially dedicate and mark completed sections. Using a ground-breaking set of designation criteria and procedures adopted by the ECGA in September 1995, the first five sections of the trail totaling 55.3 miles were designated on June 1, National Trails Day. They included the 13.3-mile Baltimore and Annapolis Trail in Maryland and the 28-mile Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park in New Jersey.

On April 26, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control sponsored a meeting on the East Coast Greenway, attended by representatives of federal, state and local greenway agencies and organizations, as well as members of the ECGA Board. Discussion of the Greenway's projected route through Delaware focused on utilizing the Northern Delaware Greenway to bring it directly through Wilmington and provide access to the culturally rich Brandywine Valley. Champions of the greenway see it as a strategic tourism resource for the entire region, attracting day-trippers and long-distance travelers. It will also serve as a local recreation facility and an alternative transportation route.

The next step in advancing the Greenway through Delaware is the preparation of a state map showing the proposed route. It is hoped that the first completed segment(s) of the Greenway in Delaware can be designated by National Trails Day 1997. The ECGA hopes to add one hundred miles of trail each year, completing 500 miles between Boston and Washington by the year 2000. A user map showing how the public can journey from Boston to DC using completed trail segments and on-road connections will be prepared over the next two years.

To sample the East Coast Greenway, join the Alliance on August 25 for the Baltimore-Annapolis-Washington 100 Tri-City Century, a one-day cycling event featuring 100-, 50-, and 25-mile rides which will carry participants through urban neighborhoods, along country roads, and on many off-road paved bicycle paths, beginning and ending at the National Mall in Washington, DC and traveling to Baltimore and Annapolis.

For more information on the ECGA, contact Karen Votava, ECGA Executive Director, 401-789-1706 or via e-mail at:

New Greenway News!

By Edith Carlson, Delaware Greenways, Inc.

What's green and growing by leaps and bounds? It's grassroots greenways. Hockessin's umbrella civic organization, the Greater Hockessin Area Development Association (GHADA) responded enthusiastically to a joint presentation by Jon Husband of New Castle County Parks and Recreation and Gail Van Gilder of Delaware Greenways, Inc. Now Hockessin has its own greenway committee headed by Boyd Sorenson, (302) 234-3303.

The Kennett Pike Association and Centerville Civic Association recently began meeting with Delaware Greenways, Inc., to explore preservation of the Rt. 52 corridor and its potential as an Historic Greenway Trail linking the historic villages along this favorite bicycling route. For more information about this emerging effort, call the Kennett Pike Association at (302) 655-6505.

Sidney Craven, Chairman of the Council on Greenways and Trails, along with Jon Husband and Gail Van Gilder, brought together the Friends of Brandywine Springs, Historic Greenbank Mill, and the Wilmington and Western Railroad who are working on linking Greenbank Park, Greenbank Mill and Brandywine Springs Park as the first step in identifying greenway opportunities in the corridor from Prices Corner to Hockessin. For more information about how you can volunteer in this greenway effort, call Historic Greenbank Mill at (302) 999-9001.

Greenway Grants Selected

by Kyle Gulbronson,Greenway Program, DNREC

On June 13, the Council on Greenways and Trails recommended approval of eight greenway grant requests for funding through the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's Greenway Program. The Council's Grant Selection Committee, chaired by Hope Schladen, included Paul Morrill, Sidney Craven, Dan Griffith, Jack Tarburton, Senator Liane Sorenson, and Representative John Schroeder. The Committee, together with Division of Parks and Recreation staff, reviewed and ranked grant applications for greenway planning, acquisition and development projects. Municipalities,

counties and some state agencies are eligible for grants through this program. The grants represent the first cycle of greenway grants funded by half of the annual interest generated by the Delaware Land and Water Conservation Trust Fund. Following Council's recommendation, the grant proposals received final approval by DNREC Secretary Christophe Tulou in late June.

The following projects received matching grants:

* Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife/ Delaware Nature Society for the Mispillion River Greenway - Mill Pond Loop

* New Castle County/ Friends Society of Brandywine Park for the Northern Delaware Greenway - Sensory Trail

* Kent County Department of Parks & Recreation for the St. Jones River Greenway - Lebanon Landing

* City of Milford for the Mispillion Riverwalk

* New Castle County Department of Parks & Recreation for the Northern Delaware Greenway - Bringhurst Woods Park

* New Castle County Department of Parks & Recreation for the Northern Delaware Greenway - Matson Run Bridge

* New Castle County Department of Parks & Recreation for the Northern Delaware Greenway - Bringhurst Woods Extension-Directional and Informational nodes

* Town of Smyrna for the Green's Branch Trail

Partnerships Celebrated at Tri-State Trails Day Event

by Ted Wilson, Delaware State Parks

Partnerships was the key theme at the Tri-State Trails Day celebration. With a plethora of partners, a consortium of hikers, bikers, joggers, riders, and drivers converged on White Clay Creek State Park as a part of National Trails Day on Saturday, June 1. A picture perfect day witnessed the arrival of a series of mountain bike rides, hikes, and equestrian trail rides, including a carriage drive, on the park's newly acquired lands off Thompson Station Road at the foot of Chambers Rock Road. About 300 participants were treated to lunch provided by Lone Star Steakhouse and bottled water donated by Artesian Water.

Featured speakers included Charles A. Salkin, Director of the Delaware Division of Parks & Recreation, Mary McKenzie, Deputy Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and Lt. Governor Ruth Ann Minner. Collectively their message was simple - Delaware's Open Space Program, including the ever expanding network of greenways and trails, has been a huge success. And the reason for this success has been the dynamic partnerships among government agencies, non-profit organizations, businesses, and private citizens. They emphasized that this foundation of partnerships must be built upon and expanded to keep the ball successfully rolling into the foreseeable future.

With most of the day's activities either starting, ending, or proceeding within the sensitive and beautiful lands associated with the White Clay Creek Resource Area, participants needed only to look around to see just how successful the area's land protection efforts have been. White Clay Creek State Park is an excellent example of the success of the State's commitment to protecting open space. From just over 24 acres acquired in 1968 to almost 2,300 acres, today, White Clay Creek State Park has grown dramatically.

Along with the contributions from Lone Star and Artesian, other event sponsors included the Delaware Division of Parks & Recreation, the State of Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the State of Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, New Castle County Department of Parks and Recreation, Delaware Greenways, Delaware Equine Council, Delaware Trail Spinners, Wilmington Trail Club, Eastern Mountain Sports, Nike, Wilderness Canoe Trips, Ciba, Delaware Nature Society, and Boy Scout Troop 33.

New Bike Path at Cape Henlopen State Park

A new bike path at Cape Henlopen State Park is now open. The 10-foot wide, one-mile path, which parallels Cape Henlopen Drive from the bath house to the park entrance and connecting with the fishing pier, was dedicated at a ceremony on June 21. Governor Carper, Congressman Castle, Secretary Christophe Tulou, Secretary Anne Canby, and area legislators began the dedication with a ribbon-cutting, followed by a ride along the new pathway to the fishing pier. A brief ceremony followed in the new picnic pavilion showcasing a new style of architecture for Cape Henlopen State Park. In addition to the new bike path park visitors can now crab and fish from the improved fishing pier, purchase bait and tackle at the new bait and tackle shop, and picnic in the new pavilion.

The Greenways & Trails Newsletter is a quarterly publication of the Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation and the Council on Greenways and Trails. If you would like to be added to the mailing list for the newsletter e-mail the Greenway Program or call the Division of Parks and Recreation at (302) 739-5285.

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