Volunteers spruce up Hunn Nature Park on Earth Day


Hayden Buck, an 8-year-old from Magnolia, puts down some mulch for a tree at the Nunn Nature Park on Earth Day Saturday. (Delaware State New/Mike Finney)

DOVER — There wasn’t any better way to spend Earth Day for more than 120 volunteers than by spreading mulch, laying stone dust down on nature trails and just enjoying the outdoors, even on a rainy Saturday at the Hunn Nature Park.

The park, which is nestled behind the Gateway South Shopping Center off Del. 10 with an entrance off Sorghum Mill Road, was celebrating its one-year anniversary of being open to the public.

A little bit of pruning, prodding and general upkeep turned out to be the perfect celebration on the 47th anniversary of Earth Day.

“I think we probably had more than 120 volunteers out here, weather and all,” said Wayne McCarty, facilities specialist for the Kent County Division of Parks and Recreation. “We put stone dust down on 1,100-feet of trails, planted 25 trees and had one Girl Scout project where they planted one of their trees that they brought out.

Felton’s Michaela Lane was one of more than 120 volunteers who celebrated Earth Day with a workday at Hunn Nature Park Saturday. (Delaware State New/Mike Finney)

“We put mulch down around a lot of trees and put these wire cages around them so deer don’t have them for lunch.”

Volunteers also did some trailblazing, site cleanup and tied in and linked together two trail systems that past volunteers established.

Air Force personnel help out

Mr. McCarty said that probably around 70 percent of the volunteers who helped spruce up the park on Saturday were Dover Air Force Base personnel and their families.

“It’s a family affair,” he said. “We’ve got something for all ages. The oldest person we’ve ever had do this was 98 and the youngest was two.”

Jody Sweeney, a commissioner for District 5 on Kent County Levy Court, helped out at the event and was amazed at the turnout even in the wet weather.

“We’ve got a lot of families out here and the Dover Air Force Base is amazing,” Mr. Sweeney said. “It seems like every event we have they send a group of airmen out here and it’s amazing the work that they get done in a short amount of time.

Workers from Kent County Parks and Recreation hand out mulch to volunteers. (Delaware State New/Mike Finney)

“On my way over here it was raining so bad that I thought for sure we’d only have about 10 people here. This tells me that the community is very much involved in this park and very much involved in events like Earth Day and Make A Difference Day.”

The Hunn Nature Park offers people around 180 acres and three miles of trails to explore a wide variety of wildlife, trees and vegetation.

It wasn’t always like this.

It’s amazing that the park was once the site of the Wildcat Landfill from 1962 until 1973, which became contaminated from the disposal of things such as municipal, industrial and latex waste, as well as paint sludge.

Property remediation

Beginning in 1983, the federal Environmental Protection Agency began remediation and cleanup of the property, which included hazardous waste disposal, soil cover installation, replacement of wells and groundwater monitoring.

The EPA finally removed the landfill from its National Priorities List of Polluted Sites in 2003.

With its successful turnaround, the Hunn Nature Park is one area that has come to symbolize what Earth Day is all about.

“We’re volunteering and just giving back, remembering the importance of what God’s given us,” said Darren Lane, of Felton, who was working alongside his daughter Michaela on Saturday.

“This doesn’t look like the site of a toxic waste dump at all anymore. A lot of work and effort has gone into kind of bringing it back to life.”

Mr. Lane said working in the area was nothing new to him. He actually planted trees along Del. 1 alongside the park’s boundaries around 20 years ago.

Hayden Buck, a third-grader from Star Hill Elementary, enjoyed the chance to get outside and play in some dirt.

“It was pretty fun,” she said. “I liked spreading out the sand (for the nature trail). I just wanted to do my part for Earth Day.”

Wayne McCarty, facilities specialist for the Kent County Division of Parks and Recreation, thanks the volunteers at Hunn Nature Park for showing up despite the rainy weather. (Delaware State New/Mike Finney)

Mr. McCarty said the Hunn Nature Park wasn’t very well attended in its first year of being open to the public, but he believes once the word gets out that people will come.

“We’ve been getting quite a few visitors but we don’t have signage up yet. But the park is open,” Mr. McCarty said. “The parking lot was completed and people have a place to park and they can walk in from the trail head and they’ve got 180 acres to explore.

“This is a great place to see a lot of wildlife and because this is passive recreation, with no ballfields of anything like that, it’s all like a nature preserve.”

Other Earth Day celebrations

Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn Garvin Sec. Garvin joined dozens of volunteers who transferred about 600 bare root seedlings into larger pots at St. Jones Reserve at 818 Kitts Hummock Road.

Those seedlings will grow in Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve’s native plant nursery over the summer, then be planted in the ground in September at the Blackbird Creek Reserve, along with 700 seedlings potted last year.

Also, dozens of visitors attended the “If These Trees Could Talk” program at the First State Heritage Park in downtown Dover on Saturday.

Guests were invited to travel around The Green to experience some natural history, learn tree identification and hear some events to which the trees have borne witness.

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