Fees, passes required at state parks, wildlife areas starting Friday

Fees and park passes will once more be required at all Delaware State Parks starting Friday, May 8, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced Wednesday.

Also starting Friday, a conservation access pass will be necessary to enter state wildlife areas, DNREC announced.

In mid-March, DNREC suspended entry fees, park passes and access passes through the end of April, and the free period was then continued into the beginning of May.

Those receiving unemployment insurance benefits can receive an annual park pass for $10, and those passes can be purchased online for those on unemployment as well as other state or federal assistance, officials said.

The Assistance Pass Program was already available to those on General Assistance, Medicaid, Social Security Supplemental Security Income, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant and Children or Purchase of Care, but was only available with an in-person application.

For the safety of the public and for employees, a number of limitations and requirements will remain in place in parks, wildlife areas, fishing areas and boat ramps. 

The limitations include entrance booths at parks will not be staffed, so visitors without a park annual pass will pay the daily fee via automated credit card machines or the self-registration envelopes at park entrances. 

Bathrooms will remain closed or unavailable at parks, wildlife areas, fishing areas and boat ramps. 

Beaches remain closed except for exercising, dog-walking and surf fishing under very limited conditions, per the Governor’s state of emergency orders. Playgrounds, campgrounds and park offices continue to be closed and tours and other activities in parks will not yet resume.

Visitors to parks, wildlife areas, fishing areas and boat ramps must have masks with them, and must wear them when social distancing from others cannot be maintained.

The Governor’s requirement that out-of-state visitors must quarantine for 14 days upon entering Delaware before visiting parks, wildlife areas or other public spaces remains in effect.

State park entrance fees for vehicles registered in Delaware are $4 at inland parks and $5 at ocean parks. Fees for out-of-state vehicles are $8 at inland parks and $10 at ocean parks. Entrance fees will remain in effect through Nov. 30, which is the normal fee season end date. 

Annual passes and surf fishing permits may currently only be purchased online, as all state park offices remain closed to the public, with annual passes for Delaware vehicles at $35 and for out-of-state vehicles at $70, with discounts for seniors, military and others. 

Those who purchase an annual pass before June 1 may place their receipt of purchase in the window of their vehicle to use state parks while waiting for the pass to arrive via mail. For information on pass and permit fees, go to www.destateparks.com/Know/PassesTagsFees, which includes a link to apply for the reduced cost Annual Pass Assistance Program for those on state and federal assistance, including unemployment.

A Delaware Conservation Access Pass is required for any registered motor vehicle that’s used to access most of state wildlife areas. 

Conservation Access Passes are available as annual passes, which may be used from July 1 through June 30, or as three-day passes, which may be used for three consecutive days. 

The conservation pass provides needed funding to help the Division of Fish and Wildlife maintain and improve public access, facilities, and wildlife habitat on state wildlife areas. Conservation Access Passes may be purchased and more information is available online at https://dnrec.alpha.delaware.gov/fish-wildlife/conservation-access-pass/.