Abbott’s Mill Nature Center celebrates 35 years

A stream runs by the Boardwalk Loop at Abbott’s Mill Nature Center near Milford. It is one of two nature trails on the grounds. A tour of the 200-year old mill on the grounds of the center is set for this Saturday and every third Saturday until November. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

A stream runs by the Boardwalk Loop at Abbott’s Mill Nature Center near Milford. It is one of two nature trails on the grounds. A tour of the 200-year old mill on the grounds of the center is set for this Saturday and every third Saturday until November. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

MILFORD –– Abbott’s Mill Nature Center is in the midst of celebrating its 35th anniversary and ongoing programming options are bound to keep kids and adults interested in its 482 acres of preserved wilderness.

Traditional programs like weekly tours of the nature center’s namesake mill offer locals and visitors alike the chance to learn about the area and the center’s history.

The Milford land was purchased by Nathan Willey in 1795. He’d go on to build the four-story water-powered cornmeal mill, which remained operational for almost 200 years under the management of 16 different owners.

The mill was sold to the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife in 1963 and in 1975 transferred to Delaware’s Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs in for the intentional use of public recreation and education.

The mill facilities were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

By 1981, the mill, pond and surrounding land eventually opened as a 27-acre nature center under the Delaware Nature Society in 1981. Abbott’s Mill Nature Center is now 482 acres and is run as a joint effort between Delaware’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and the Delaware Nature Society.

The four-story water-powered cornmeal mill on the grounds of Abbott’s Mill remained operational for almost 200 years under the management of 16 different owners. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The four-story water-powered cornmeal mill on the grounds of Abbott’s Mill remained operational for almost 200 years under the management of 16 different owners. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

A tour of the mill will be held this Saturday and every third Saturday from March to November from 2 to 3 p.m. Tours are free for members, $5 for non-members and $3 for kids five and up. No preregistration is required.

Sundays are still set aside for Critter Corner, a free lesson about local reptiles and amphibians. Visitors are able to interact with live snakes, turtles, frogs, toads and fish during the 2 to 2:30 p.m. lesson.

Critter Corner happens every Sunday from April to mid-November.

“We’ve always offered programming for all ages but are always looking for ways to improve and keep the community engaged,” said Matt Babbitt, Abbott’s site manager. “I think we made some real strides this year.”

Some of the newer programs involve events featuring paddle sports like kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding on the nature center’s 20-acre pond.

On Sept. 18, Abbott’s Mill Pond will play host to Paddles, Pork and Pours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Milford’s Mr. BBQ will be on site dishing out lunch, Dogfish Head has the drinks covered and plenty of lawn games will be set out to play.

“Right now, we’re in a partnership and limited as to when we can do paddle sports so we usually do them for special programming,” Mr. Babbit said. “All the events have gone over really well so hopefully we can have some paddle sport options full time by next summer.”

Through tours, activities and educational programming, Abbott’s Mill has attracted more than 50,000 visitors since 2012.

“We always welcome input from the community,” Mr. Babbit said. “We offer a lot of programs but we want to stay attuned to what the community thinks is fun and interesting, not just what we think is fun and interesting.”

Through tours, activities and educational programming, Abbott’s Mill has attracted more than 50,000 visitors since 2012. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Through tours, activities and educational programming, Abbott’s Mill has attracted more than 50,000 visitors since 2012. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

If organized programming isn’t your style, free trails are open daily from dawn to dusk. A 5K running trail is open year round to the public and also serves as practice grounds for Milford High School’s track team.

Wildflower meadows are a great place to spot residential birds or purple martins and others just passing through.

To look farther into the woods and wetlands where amphibians and other critters are common, two boardwalk trails are on the property –– the Boardwalk Loop Trail near the center’s parking lot is wheelchair accessible.

The whole Nature Center is pet friendly so as long as your dog’s on a leash, he or she is free to explore the land or take a run with you.

Abbott’s Mill 35th anniversary celebration will culminate on Oct. 14 and 15. Abbott’s will host a three-course farm to table-style “Meal at the Mill” featuring locally grown produce and chicken from Coverdale Farms in Greenville and craft brews from Dogfish Head on the 14th.

Tickets are $75 for Delaware Nature Society members and $85 for non-members. Tickets can be purchased online at delawarenaturesociety.org.

Saturday Oct. 15 will be the Autumn at Abbott’s Festival, a day-long celebration featuring live music, artisans, food trucks, guided kayak tours, yoga sessions and kids’ activities. Admission is free for Nature Society members, $5 for adults and $3 for kids 5 and up.

For more information about Abbott’s Mill and its programs, visit delawarenaturesociety.org or call 422-0847. Abbott’s Mill Nature Center is at 15411 Abbott’s Pond Road in Milford.

Taxidermy wildlife at Abbott's Mill Nature Center near Milford.  (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Taxidermy wildlife at Abbott’s Mill Nature Center near Milford. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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