COVID-19 changes offers Smyrna teen more time on Lake Como

For kids like Brian Wright of Smyrna, having time to get outside and explore nature can offer a wildlife education they may not receive in traditional schooling. (Submitted photo)

SMYRNA — A year ago, Brian Wright’s kayak was too big for him to lift off the ramp and get on the water by himself. Now a year later, with more time to kill in quarantine, 15-year-old Brian regularly takes the 10-foot kayak out by himself on Lake Como in Smyrna.

Brian said with the extra free time he has at home due to online classes and lack of extracurriculars, he likes to spend more time with nature on the lake.

“School is now is only from 8:30 to 3:30. So after that, I didn’t have anything to do,” Brian said. “So I just went out on the kayak on the water, fished, took pictures, that kind of stuff.”

A freshman at Smyrna High School, he lives with his parents Stacy and Steve Wright at their house on Lake Como. The lake is located off U.S. 13 and offers visitors a small swimming beach, a playground area, and picnic benches, all of which are closed until further notice due to COVID-19.

The Wright family has a dock to the lake on their property, so Brian can appreciate the lake as he pleases.

Lake Como is home to much of Delaware’s wildlife, including bald eagles, blue heron and osprey among other animals. Brian said he likes to observe the different animals he sees on the lake.

“I’ve seen all different kinds of ducks and turtles out there,” Brian said. “I like to look them up and see what kind they are.”

“I’ve seen all different kinds of ducks and turtles out there,” Brian said. “I like to look them up and see what kind they are.”

Before the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the spring, Brian planned to spend his free time in the spring and summer training for Smyrna High’s fall football season. This past fall, he played on the freshman team as starting quarterback. In early spring, he also was preparing for his first game with a 7 on 7 football league outside of his high school.

Unfortunately, all those plans were pushed to the side when COVID-19 rapidly spread across the country.

“I was doing a 7 on 7 league in the spring. We were practicing and were going to have one of our first games right as quarantine started, so then all that got canceled,” Brian said. “And then the lifting weights and workout stuff was supposed to start like, a couple weeks ago, but they’ve been delaying everything.”

Brian’s father Mr. Wright said he is grateful that COVID-19 gave his son the opportunity to explore nature more on his own terms.

Brian Wright, with his parents, Stacy and Steve, at a Smyrna High School football game. (Submitted photo)

“He’s in honors classes, so he’ll do fine on the academic side. But his passion is football and he loves the outdoors,” Mr. Wright said. “His saving grace lately has been his ability to get on the water and do things in the nature realm where, if this COVID thing had never happened, he’d be ingrained in sports.”

For kids like Brian, having time to get outside and explore nature can offer a wildlife education they may not receive in traditional schooling.

“He definitely has expressed a lot more interest in nature because he’s out more on the water.” Mr. Wright said.

Mrs. Wright, who is a licensed counselor of mental health, added she is happy her son is spending more time outside and less time in front of screens.

“As a mental health provider, I feel like that’s all I tell my clients, you know, to get out and walk, get outside and do things,” Mrs. Wright said. “He isn’t just sitting in front of a screen, and he’s getting out there and enjoying things.”

Lake Como is home to much of Delaware’s wildlife, including bald eagles, blue heron and osprey among other animals.

For many children, quarantine and online classes mean more time for video games and television, so Mr. Wright is especially proud of his son for using this extra time to be with nature.

“He has friends that will game all day long. From the time they get up, they’ll take a break to eat, and then they’ll just game all day long. He gets texts and emails and things that says, ‘When are you gonna get on? When are you gonna get on?’ and he goes ‘I’ll be on later, I’m going fishing,’” Mr. Wright said.

“It’s nice that he’s excited about doing that first, and then second that he has the opportunity to get out and jump on the water and go fishing.”

Mrs. Wright said the pandemic has been an especially stressful time for many of her clients, so getting outside is even more important to mental health than ever.

“A lot of people are struggling right now,” Mrs. Wright said. “I think for Brian that really, he probably doesn’t even realize it, but it’s kept him in a better place mentally, just being able to get out and do things.”

The Wright family said they have not heard official news about how school may continue in the fall, and whether football will be a part of that. Despite this, they say they are hopeful that Brian will be able to continue his normal school life in the fall, if not with a touch more nature in it.

Katie Redefer is a student intern for the Delaware State News, returning to Emerson College in Boston in the fall.