Delaware’s state parks offer free admission on Sunday

Killens Pond State Park’s 66-acre millpond is a popular place for kayaking and fishing. (Delaware State News file photo)

Killens Pond State Park’s 66-acre millpond is a popular place for kayaking and fishing. (Delaware State News file photo)

DOVER — For those interested in hiking the trails at Killens Pond State Park in Felton or jumping into the waves of the Atlantic Ocean at Delaware Seashore State Park in Rehoboth Beach, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is offering the perfect ticket on Sunday.

DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation is hosting “Delaware State Parks Day” — featuring free admission — on Sunday at most of its 16 parks throughout the state. The offer is not valid at the Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington, Fenwick State Line Beach or Fort Delaware State Park.

The Delaware State Parks system is celebrating its 65th anniversary and also capturing the 2016 Gold Medal Award as the best-managed parks system in the nation.

So Raymond E. Bivens, the director of Delaware State Parks, said it is the perfect opportunity to celebrate, though with severe thunderstorms being forecast for Delaware on

DELAWARE STATE PARKS • Alapocas Run State Park: Wilmington, (302) 577-1164  • Auburn Heights Preserve: 3000 Creek Road, Yorklyn, (302) 239-5687  • Bellevue State Park: Wilmington, (302) 761-6963  • Brandywine Creek State Park: Wilmington, (302) 577-3534  • Brandywine Zoo: Wilmington State Parks, 1001 N. Park Drive, Wilmington, (302) 571-7788  • Cape Henlopen State Park: Lewes, (302) 645-8983  • Delaware Seashore State Park: Rehoboth Beach, (302) 227-2800  • Fenwick Island State Park: Rehoboth Beach, (302) 227-2800  • First State Heritage Park: Dover, (302) 739-9194  • Fort Delaware State Park: Delaware City, (302) 834-7941  • Fort DuPont State Park: Delaware City, (302) 834-7941  • Fort Miles Historical Area: Cape Henlopen State Park, 15099 Cape Henlopen Drive, Lewes, (302)644-5007  • Fox Point State Park: Wilmington, (302) 761-6963  • Holts Landing State Park: Millville, (302) 227-2800  • Indian River Life-Saving Station: Delaware Seashore State Park, 25039 Coastal Highway, Rehoboth Beach, (302) 227-6991 • Killens Pond State Park: Felton, (302) 284-4526  • Lums Pond State Park: Bear, (302) 368-6989 Port Penn Interpretive Center: Delaware City.  • Trap Pond State Park: Laurel, (302) 875-5153  • White Clay Creek State Park: Newark, (302) 368-6900  • Wilmington State Parks: Wilmington, (302) 577-7020

DELAWARE STATE PARKS
• Alapocas Run State Park: Wilmington, (302) 577-1164
• Auburn Heights Preserve: 3000 Creek Road, Yorklyn, (302) 239-5687
• Bellevue State Park: Wilmington, (302) 761-6963
• Brandywine Creek State Park: Wilmington, (302) 577-3534
• Brandywine Zoo: Wilmington State Parks, 1001 N. Park Drive, Wilmington, (302) 571-7788
• Cape Henlopen State Park: Lewes, (302) 645-8983
• Delaware Seashore State Park: Rehoboth Beach, (302) 227-2800
• Fenwick Island State Park: Rehoboth Beach, (302) 227-2800
• First State Heritage Park: Dover, (302) 739-9194
• Fort Delaware State Park: Delaware City, (302) 834-7941
• Fort DuPont State Park: Delaware City, (302) 834-7941
• Fort Miles Historical Area: Cape Henlopen State Park, 15099 Cape Henlopen Drive, Lewes, (302)644-5007
• Fox Point State Park: Wilmington, (302) 761-6963
• Holts Landing State Park: Millville, (302) 227-2800
• Indian River Life-Saving Station: Delaware Seashore State Park, 25039 Coastal Highway, Rehoboth Beach, (302) 227-6991
• Killens Pond State Park: Felton, (302) 284-4526
• Lums Pond State Park: Bear, (302) 368-6989 Port Penn Interpretive Center: Delaware City.
• Trap Pond State Park: Laurel, (302) 875-5153
• White Clay Creek State Park: Newark, (302) 368-6900
• Wilmington State Parks: Wilmington, (302) 577-7020

Sunday, it might not be the perfect weather.

“It was a staff suggestion to help bring attention to our 65th anniversary and the national recognition from the NRPA Gold Medal that we received for 2015/2016 as the best managed state parks system, we decided to waive entrance fees on 6/5 to celebrate the 65th,” Mr. Bivens said. “We also sought a partner for a sponsorship to help offset the loss in revenue. Thankfully ‘Visit Delaware’ signed on to sponsor the event. At many state parks Saturday we will be giving away [450] beach towels to commemorate the occasion.

A soggy spring season appears to have slowed attendance some at many state parks this spring, but Mr. Bivens isn’t discouraged. Not even with Sunday’s messy forecast.

“We don’t get weekly attendance reports but over the last few years attendance has been trending up year over year,” he said.

Delaware Tourism Director Linda Parkowski said she hopes “Delaware State Parks Day” offers the chance for those who don’t attend the parks regularly to visit them and see the kinds of things they have to offer. The Delaware Tourism Office’s “Visit Delaware” campaign is sponsoring the event.

“The state parks system is a scenic and exciting way for visitors to discover what makes Delaware special,” Ms. Parkowski said. “The state drew a record 8 million visitors in 2014 thanks in large part to Delaware’s five-star beaches, which include beaches at three state parks.”

DNREC Secretary David Small said Sunday should be a good chance for all of the state parks to showcase what they have to offer.

“While Delaware State Parks is celebrating their 65th anniversary this year and also the National Gold Medal Award from the National Recreation and Parks Association as the best-managed parks system in the country, the free admission on ‘Delaware State Parks Day’ [Sunday] is a great opportunity for folks to experience our great state parks and to see for themselves why Delaware’s parks system was chosen No. 1 nationally,” Mr. Small said.

Tourism boost

Gov. Jack Markell said that Delaware State Parks provide a large boost to the tourism industry in the state throughout almost the entire year, putting it right alongside weekend-long events such as the Firefly Music Festival and NASCAR races at Dover International Speedway.

“Tourism in Delaware contributes $3 billion to our economy annually — and having the best state parks in the country is key to our success,” Gov. Markell said. “Delaware attracts multitudes of out-of-state — and in-state — visitors who come to enjoy scenic and recreational destinations like the Junction & Breakwater Trail at Cape Henlopen for biking, Delaware Seashore State Park and the Indian River Marina for surf-fishing and boating, Lums Pond for zip-lining, along with many other great outdoors and cultural experiences.”

Fees normally are charged at state parks from March 1 to Nov. 30 and daily entry for most costs $4 (inland) or $5 (ocean) for Delaware residents and $8 or $10 for out-of-state visitors. Fort Delaware, Fenwick State Line Beach and Brandywine Zoo are exceptions.

Mr. Bivens said Cape Henlopen and Delaware Seashore parks generate the most revenue with camping fees, along with added marina fees for Delaware Seashore.

“Our biggest revenue sources are camping, daily entrance fees and annual passes [surf fishing],” Mr. Bivens said. “Cape Henlopen and Delaware Seashore do generate the most income but both have very large campgrounds with cabins and cottages. Lums Pond is our No. 3 revenue generating park.

“No Delaware state park is self-sufficient or generates more income then the cost to operate. Across the board we average about 65 percent self-sufficiency which is much higher than our neighboring state park systems which are usually in the 20-30 range.”

Delaware’s parks, particularly those along the beach, draw many visitors from out of state. Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York license plates are a common sight near Delaware’s beaches in the summer months, one big reason why the state gets 59 percent of its revenue from visitors. Out-of-staters pay higher entrance, camping and surf fishing fees as well.

Mr. Bivens said there is an added bonus that many state parks have to offer visitors — education along with recreation.

“Our nature centers at parks such as Trap Pond, Killens Pond, White Clay and Cape Henlopen are very popular,” he said.

“Our staff, volunteer and vendors offer a wide array of recreational opportunities from stand up paddle boarding, horseback trail riding, rock climbing, head boat fishing trips, living history at Fort Delaware, boat cruises on Delaware Bay, rail bikes, free borrow a bike at various parks, day camps, pontoon boat tours and prices less cultural sites like Fort Miles and Bethesda Church at Trap Pond.”

Killens Pond offerings

Killens Pond in Felton is the only traditional state park in Kent County. The First State Heritage Park in Dover is the state’s first urban “park without boundaries” linking historic and cultural sites.

Killens Pond features a 66-acre millpond which offers boating and fishing, canoes and paddle boats, hiking trails, an 18-hole disc golf course and several other recreational opportunities.

Killens Pond is also home to a water park that visitors can enjoy for an additional fee. It is currently undergoing renovations but will be open on Sunday.

Killens Pond will be offering a 65th anniversary: Pondside Adventure at 1 p.m. Sunday. For $10 per person, visitors can hike the entire Pondside Trail and afterward take a kayak trip and explore the pond and Murderkill River looking for wildlife.

Free fishing, too

Mr. Bivens added that Sunday is a date doubly important to anyone planning to take advantage of free admission for state parks and who might also want to fish for free and without needing a fishing license — as today and Sunday comprise the “Fish for Free” weekend in Delaware, sponsored by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife, and includes freshwater angling opportunities within many state parks.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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