Fishing nets, touch tanks and taxidermy made for an educational morning at Sunset Park in Dewey Beach Aug. 2. Dewey Beach Patrol held its annual Sunset Park Environmental Educational Outreach Program on the bay at Dagsworthy Avenue.
Every year, the beach patrol invites state and private agencies to set up a learning station that teaches children about local wetlands and wildlife. About 55 kids attended the free event, many of them also participants in Dewey Beach's Junior Lifeguard Program.
Dewey Beach Patrol Capt. Todd Fritchman said it's the eighth year of the popular program. He said he is happy with its success as are few other educational activities in Dewey Beach for children.
Fritchman also owns environmental consulting company Envirotech, which participates in the event. Liz Lingo and Matt Messina of Envirotech sat in the dunes and helped kids identify aquatic creatures in a touch tank. Lingo said this is her third summer participating in the program. "The kids are really entertained by this stuff; they love it to death," she said.
In the Sunset pavilion, Susan Mitchell, an intern for Center for the Inland Bays, gave presentations about horseshoe crabs. Among other lessons, Mitchell taught children the correct way to pick up a horseshoe crab. Holding a display horseshoe crab up by its tail, Mitchell asked, "How many of you get picked up by your hair?"
"Not me!" the kids yelled.
Josh Hudson of Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control stood in a van full of stuffed raccoons, deer, fish and hawks to talk to one group of children about hunting and fishing regulation in Delaware. Hudson said bluefin tuna and blue crabs are often caught illegally and sold to restaurants.
Outside of the van, Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Officer Troy Trimmer told the group about the importance of life jackets when they are on a boat or kayak. "I've got to wear this thing when it's 100 degrees out," Trimmer said, pointing to his bulletproof vest. "You've got to wear a life jacket when it's 100 degrees out."
Lifeguards Troy Cannatelli and James Gandolfo collected small fish and crustaceans by sweeping a large seine net through knee-deep bay water. Lillie Lingo and Joe Barranco of the beach patrol helped kids identify sand mullets, sea jellies and small blue crabs.
Rehoboth Beach resident Liz Vasilikos brought her two daughters, Marika and Thalia, to the event for the first time. "We didn't even know this was here," Vasilikos said. She said Marika and Thalia are both participants in the Junior Lifeguard Program.
Lt. Rob Mason of Dewey Beach Patrol said he participated in Junior Lifeguards as a kid too. Mason has coordinated the Sunset Park event for the last four years, and he helps run the Junior Lifeguard Program. "Sometimes it's a long day, but the kids love it," Mason said.
For more information on Dewey Beach Patrol events, visit deweybeachpatrol.com.