With a Fort Miles World War II tower in the background, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn Garvin and U.S. Economic Development Administration Regional Director Linda Cruz Carnall joined to announce a $3.2 grant from EDA to DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation.
The announcement was made July 1 at Cape Henlopen State Park, which is the most visited park in the state's system.
The funding will support campground improvements at Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore, Killens Pond, Lums Pond and Trap Pond state parks. The funds are under EDA’s $240 million competitive American Rescue Plan Travel, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation program, and will be matched with $803,100 in local funds.
• Cape Henlopen: Campground expansion with additional sites, amenities and new full-service cabins in the youth primitive area near Herring Point
• Delaware Seashore State Park: Six cottages to be added to the existing 12, with an additional dozen or so cottages on the south side campground
• Lums Pond: Campground expansion with 30 new pull-through, full hook-up sites plus a new bathhouse facility to accommodate the expansion
• Killens Pond: Six accessible docks and kayak/canoe launches, a new dump station at the campground and a new camp store closer to the existing campground
• Trap Pond: Six accessible docks and kayak/canoe launches; a new boat rental facility with multiple family restrooms, service windows, storage for boats and safety equipment; 10 new full-service cabins; a new primitive camping area and a splash park.
In 2021, Delaware State Parks won the prestigious American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration and the National Recreation and Park Association 2021 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management.
Delaware won the award for the second time and joins Florida as the only states to win the award twice over the 13 times it’s been presented.
More people coming to parks
After breaking attendance records in 2021, Garvin said, Delaware State Parks is on pace to set another visitor attendance mark by the end of 2022. Visitation to Delaware State Parks has been increasing for years, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Garvin noted that tourists from 49 states have visited First State parks; North Dakota is the only state remaining.
Since 2011, camping nights reserved within Delaware’s state parks have increased by 124%. In 2011, the parks saw 67,000 nights booked, and 10 years later, that number grew to more than 150,000 nights in 2021.
There are currently 826 campsites and 47 cabins/cottages or yurts at Delaware State Parks’ campgrounds. Post-camping surveys show visitors to state parks want to see upgrades to bathrooms and showers, RV hookups, improved campground stores and retail offerings, connectivity, larger campsites and additional camping opportunities.