Friends keep Killens Pond on trail of success

FELTON — For 19 years, Larry Pegg has enjoyed Killens Pond State Park.

He has jogged, walked and cleared the trails that wind around the forest and former millpond.

“It’s a great place to commune with nature,” he said. “I have seen deer, I have seen turkey, I have seen fox, rabbit, squirrel, bluebirds, goldfinch. … you name them, they’re around.

“There’s an eagle’s nest on the property. And they have fledged one eaglet this year. We’re seeing three eagles around. We have a great blue heron that nests in there.

“My wife and I have been kayaking and there were loons on the pond. That’s not an everyday occurrence but they do pass through.”

Mr. Pegg is president of the Friends of Killens Pond State Park, an all-volunteer service and advocacy group.

The park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Its friends group has been around promoting preservation and improvements for 30-some years, he said.

“These were people who were interested in the park, and neighbors of the park, who wanted to see it be successful,” Mr. Pegg said.

When you look around and see the park’s amenities, you might not know how active the friends group has been in making it all happen.

That includes their advocacy for the park’s unique waterslide park.

One of its first projects was the Life Course trail that covers about eight-tenths of a mile and features 15 exercise stations.

Other trails include a 2.3-mile bicycle trail, the 3.1-mile cross country trail often used for school races and the 2.6-mile Pondside Nature Trail.

“I enjoy the trails,” said Mr. Pegg. “In my younger years, I was a runner. Up until recently, I’ve been a steady walker.”

Some aches and pains have sidelined him, he said, “but I’ll be back on the trail before long.”

“The pond side trail is a great trail,” he said. “Most of the time you’re in the shade and most of the time you’re in the woods. There are unique places where you can sit and watch the pond and one where you can watch one of the feeder streams that go into the pond.”

The centerpiece of the park is its 66-acre millpond.

It is connected to the Beaver Branch of the Murderkill River. Fishermen enjoy it for its bass and crappie, among other catches.

In 1965, the park covered 552 acres. Since then, it has grown to more than 1,400 acres.

In 2002, the state used $2 million in Open Space funds to buy 345 acres.

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Mr. Pegg, who notes he is “only 80,” is a native of Pennsylvania. He retired from Connecticut to Delaware 19 years ago after a career with the Boy Scouts of America.

His then-new Delaware neighbors, Bill and Fay Kelley, were Killens Pond campground hosts in winter months.

“He said to us, ‘You guys ought to get interested in the park,’ ” Mr. Pegg said.

Mr. Pegg and his wife, Marlyn, became summer campground hosts.

From there, he started mowing grass as a volunteer before a park rule required that he be put on the payroll.

He kept up with the mowing with others for a few years, but also immersed himself into volunteering.

Among his many projects was painting the green trim on the pavilions.

It’s the kind of work he and several others in the group still enjoy.

On the second and fourth Thursdays of the month, the Friends of Killens Pond do trail maintenance — “mulching and cutting back the greenbrier.”

Maintaining a trail of bluebird boxes is another labor of love for the group.

The group’s mission, he said, is to bring more people into the park.

As such, they help sponsor the park’s Friday night concert series, support scholarships for day campers and help with student bus trip expenses.

“Those youngsters, by and large, need that experience,” he said.

They also lobby Delaware legislators when support is needed for the park.

Among their current initiatives is an upgrade to the water park.

A popular friends event is scarecrow-making two Saturdays each October. The group provides the frame, straw and more for families to put one together for a small fee.

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Mr. Pegg said what the Friends of Killens Pond needs most is more members.

He invites interested citizens to attend meetings at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the park’s nature center.

“Anyone who has an interest in Killens Pond and Mother Nature is welcome to join us,” he said.
(For information, visit www.destateparks.com/volunteers/)

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Glen Stubbolo, who oversees state parks volunteerism, said Delaware has more than 5,000 annual volunteers in its state parks.

“It’s always in excess of 100,000 volunteer hours,” he said. “In parks, a third of the work is done by our full-time staff, a third is done by our part-time, seasonal staff and a third is done by our volunteers.”

The Killens Pond friends group is one of 14 in the state, he said.

They each are different, but their missions include service, advocacy, fundraising and education.

“It’s my privilege to work with these volunteers,” Mr. Stubbolo said. “We don’t own these parks. The people of Delaware do. I get to have the people of Delaware active in their parks.

“We’re grateful to the people of Delaware that they love our parks.”

These volunteers often say they get more out of the service than they give.

“We don’t ask for anything,” said Mr. Pegg, noting the group even buys its own shirts and caps.  “We just enjoy it.”

Reach Executive Editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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