Redden Forest picnic area closed due to illegal activity

GEORGETOWN — The Delaware Forest Service announced in late January it was closing the picnic area and parking lot at Redden State Forest due to persistent criminal activity at the site.

Agency officials have no specific timetable for reopening it, they said. But they plan to use the closure period for renovations and security upgrades that could again allow for public access.

The picnic pavilion and adjacent parking lot at Redden State Forest are located on the Jester Tract at Camp and Redden roads north of Georgetown.

The agency said the rustic and historic pavilion, originally designed by Delaware’s first state forester, William S. Taber, and built in 1936, had become a magnet for lewd conduct, drug-related activity and other offenses that occasionally startled and kept away other visitors.

“We sincerely regret having to close this area to the public,” said Kyle Hoyd, Delaware’s assistant state forester. “However, we do not believe we can keep the facility open in light of the ongoing illegal activity and resulting concerns about public safety.

The closed picnic area is located on the Jester Tract at Redden Road and Camp Road, west of Route 113 in Sussex County. (Delaware Forest Service photo)

“The pavilion and parking lot will now be off-limits indefinitely. Anyone found on the premises will be subject to criminal prosecution for trespassing, in addition to other offenses.

“We plan to reassess the situation in the future while using this time to make improvements to this historic facility so it might eventually be reopened.”

Officials said problems with illegal activity in the area have been building for several years. They believe that it’s part of a troublesome trend that poses law enforcement challenges.

Such illegal actiivites have also occurred at the Wolfe Neck parking lot near the Junction and Breakwater Trail in Rehoboth Beach and lewd conduct at the C&D Canal Wildlife Area in New Castle County.

According to officials, the ongoing pattern of activity has not diminished despite increased enforcement efforts. This led officials to decide to enact the closure.

According to the forest service, the more than 12,400 acres Redden State Forest is the largest of Delaware’s three state forests and remains a popular location for horseback riding, outdoor activities and hunting — regularly ranking as one of the top deer harvest sites in the entire First State.

Redden’s Headquarters Tract also features three structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places: the Horse Barn, Ranger’s House and Redden Forest Lodge, which date from the turn of the 20th Century.

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