Coalition looks to boost ecotourism in northern Sussex

Wood: This effort is a game-changer
April 15, 2023

As population expansion and development in Sussex County move north toward Milford, a public-private coalition of groups has begun planning investment strategies to help preserve and show off the natural beauty of the Mispillion River and Cedar Creek. 

The coalition, called the Waterways Infrastructure and Investment Network, or WIIN, has released a report detailing environmental and economic assessments of the two waterways that run between Slaughter Beach and Milford, along with strategies to promote ecotourism and nature-based activities. 

Danielle Swallow, a planner for Delaware Sea Grant college program and the point person for WIIN, said at the March 31 unveiling that the report is a nature-based investment strategy.

“This area is on the precipice of more land-use development, and you have climate change, and the rate of sea-level rise is twice the global average in Delaware. We are expecting another foot of sea-level rise in the next decade. Everything is getting higher, so there is more potential for property damage. So what we can do now is to support the resources and do what they do best, which is protecting our communities from flooding.”

Swallow said some opportunities for utilizing the two waterways are more kayaking, paddleboarding and other non-motorized vessels. She would also like to see another access point along the Mispillion between Milford and Slaughter Beach. Swallow also said she would like to see more rest stations and birding platforms, as birding has become a big ecotourism driver in the state. 

The coalition, made up of more than a dozen national, state and local partners, invested $220,000 in the study, thanks to a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s National Coastal Resilience Fund.

In the report, the Mispillion River is branded as Delaware’s Hidden River. The river itself flows from downtown Milford into the Delaware Bay near the DuPont Nature Center. Cedar Creek, branded as Naturally Pristine, enters the bay just south of the Mispillion River outflow. The City of Milford and the Town of Slaughter Beach each recently passed municipal resolutions endorsing the report effort.

Slaughter Beach Mayor Bob Wood said, “I like that this plan recognizes that the natural resources in Slaughter Beach are too important not to protect. The WIIN strategy is about balancing economic opportunity with conservation and finding ways to be more resilient so that everyone gains. This effort is a game-changer for us.”

Milford Mayor Archie Campbell said, “The Mispillion River runs right through our city. It was always an important part of our downtown and maritime heritage, but now we have a better understanding of its value and how it contributes to our quality of life.”

Swallow said at this point, there is no specific timetable to begin implementing strategies, but right now, WIIN is trying to seize momentum and encourage the municipalities to begin taking action. 

To read the report, visit

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