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Delaware parks division earns national innovation award

September 18, 2019

DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation has been selected to receive the National Association of State Park Directors President’s Award for Innovation at the annual conference in Rogers, Ark.

The award recognizes the establishment of a public-private partnership and efforts to convert the abandoned National Vulcanized Fiber plant into a destination where the public is able to re-create and enjoy preserved historic and cultural resources.

The NVF plant closed after the company declared bankruptcy in 2009, leaving behind hazardous and abandoned buildings as well as contaminated water and soil.

Around the same time, Delaware State Parks acquired 192 acres of conservation and cultural resource lands, including a historic mansion and the largest operational Stanley steam car collection in the country.

Delaware State Parks, in collaboration with state and federal agencies and private developers, was able to purchase and rehabilitate the abandoned NVF properties. They, along with the mansion and car collection, became Delaware’s newest state park, Auburn Valley State Park, which spans the historic Red Clay Valley.

The goals of the public-private partnership were to clean up the contaminated watershed, expand recreational opportunities, and create a vibrant and thriving community with residential, commercial and parks amenities. The finished park includes a restored stream and created wetlands to abate flooding and provide wildlife habitat. The stream was recently stocked with trout for the first time in decades. The project also created miles of accessible trails that include four historic bridges to provide new access across the scenic Red Clay Creek and extend across the state line into Pennsylvania.

“To be recognized by the NASPD as the most innovative state park in the nation is quite a high honor,” said Shawn M. Garvin, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. “Nearly every DNREC division worked on this project, and I’m proud of the partnerships that collaborated to remediate the Yorklyn site into a vibrant new state park. We’re excited to offer improved outdoor recreational activities, while protecting and enhancing cultural and natural resources.”

Efforts to redevelop NVF are also creating a substantial economic impact. An economic analysis determined that upon buildout, activities at the site are expected to generate $4.5 million in revenue on-site and approximately $237,000 annually to the state park. Construction projects will generate 400 direct, indirect, and induced jobs, and 300 full- and part-time jobs will be created after construction is complete. Roughly $300 million in total economic output is expected in the first 10 years of operation with local tax impacts of $15 million.

The National Association of State Park Directors is devoted to helping state park systems effectively manage and administer their operations. The mission of the association is to promote and advance the state park systems of America for their own significance, as well as for their important contributions to the nation’s environment, heritage, health and economy.