Closer to nature

SLAUGHTER BEACH — A new addition at Slaughter Beach will solve a decades long dilemma for visitors hoping to catch a closer glimpse at the wildlife that lives in the Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve.

Due to the preservation efforts of people like the Marvel family who donated the land in 1988 to the Delaware Nature Society and groups like DNREC, DelDOT, the state of Delaware and the town of Slaughter Beach, many species call the marsh their home.

Ospreys nest each year at the preserve; other birds like great egrets, clapper rails and marsh wrens can also be seen flying around the marshy land when the time is right.

Fiddler crabs, mollusks, grass shrimp and insects, like the birds, continue to inhabit the nearly 109 acres of land.

But human visitors have had a hard time viewing these creatures first-hand since the land is muddy and difficult to travel. Students from local school districts could often be seen walking along the marsh on pallets during field trips.

Other visitors might even trudge through the mud, with waders if they were lucky, to get a closer view of the wildlife that lives so close to home.

Grants and other funding sources came together over the past decade to solve that problem.

Delaware Nature Society Executive Director Anne Harper, Gov. John Carney, DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin and other local leaders unveiled a new boardwalk Friday that will provide mobility into the marsh for decades more to come.

“What a cool thing to do when you come to Delaware than to go out on this boardwalk and get the education experience, or the environmental and ecosystem experience, if you will.

“It’s going to be a cool thing for the people visiting our state and here in Slaughter Beach,” Gov. Carney said.

The accessible overlook was built with a Y-shape at approximately 345 feet, allowing visitors to experience the birds, wildlife and other natural aspects of the Bayshore ecosystem present at the Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve.

“The whole idea and the whole premise of this for DNREC is to get folks to be able to get out and experience our incredible nature we have here in the state of Delaware,” Sec. Garvin said during the event.

Funded primarily from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration via DelDOT’s Transportation Alternative Program which requires matching funds from a sponsor.

The town of Slaughter Beach serves as the match sponsor with a long-term land lease between the town and the Delaware Nature Society in place.

A second grant from DNREC’s Outdoor Recreation Parks and Trails grant program helped the process along by paying for the initial design and engineering, along with DNREC’s Delaware Bayshore Initiative, according to Delaware Nature Society officials during the groundbreaking event in October.

Sen. Gary Simpson and Rep. Harvey Kenton, both now retired, also helped fund the project through the Community Transportation Fund. Other funds were provided by the Delmarva Ornithological Society, Milford Lions Club and Dogfish Head Brewery.

“Rep. Kenton could not be here. He and I helped fund this with our transportation funds. That money, to a large extent, is used to fill potholes.

“And this is certainly a much better project than putting it into potholes. So, I’m happy to be a part of this celebration,” Mr. Simpson said.

The event ended with a celebratory ribbon cutting before students from the Milford School District continued their field trip from the newly erected boardwalk.

“At the end of the day, the more people we can get to touch nature, the more we can get them to see it first-hand, the better off we are as a community.

“And there’s not a better example than this investment and the generosity of the Marvel family and the working that we all do together with members of the general assembly and the county,” Secretary Garvin said.

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