Milford’s Parks & Rec provides outlook for 2021

MILFORD — The city’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Board met Wednesday to get up to date on Milford’s parks system and provide feedback where needed.

Brad Dennehy, the director of the Parks & Recreation Department, gave an update on the handrails and lighting along the section of the Riverwalk near the library.

“It’s really at the point where it needs to be replaced,” Mr. Dennehy said. “There’s a lot of aging to the timber.”

When the city does install new handrails, Mr. Dennehy hopes to incorporate some lighting, as well.

“Although (the area has) upright lampposts, it’s quite dark when you walk down there,” he said, “particularly if you’re walking between, say, Park Place across to the theater.”

He believes both birds can be knocked out with a single stone.

“What I’d really like to see is a handrail system that incorporates some lighted bollards,” Mr. Dennehy said.

“Where there’s posts, we would actually change them out, run electric to them, and there’d be a handrail and a lighted walkway on both sides,” he said. “I think it could be really unique and could kind of put Milford on the map.”

Mr. Dennehy has already found some funding for the project.

“I submitted a grant at the state level with the Delaware Land and Conservation Trust, and we were successful in them awarding us $75,000,” he said. “It’s a matching grant, so the city would have to kick in another $75,000.”

The city could take the money “out of the electrical reserves for that because it’s a lighting project,” Mr. Dennehy said.

The board also voted to remove one recreational facility, a defunct disc golf course, and considered constructing pickleball in its place.

“We put a disc golf course in in 2013 over at Tony Silicato (Park), and it was used a little bit,” said Nan Martino, the department’s sports coordinator. “Over time, the course has come under some disarray, and there’s actually only four holes that are still existing there.”

She proposed dismantling the remaining holes and building a new course elsewhere. Ms. Martino said some local disc golf players have been helping the department consider potential locations.

The course’s present location is not ideal for a few reasons, mostly that it was centered on a retaining pond.

“That may not have been the best place to put those holes, in my opinion,” Ms. Martino said. It’s “kind of a precarious way to throw your Frisbee because some of them don’t go straight, and they might end up in the pond.”

Still, she said a new course would be good for the city.

“It is a very popular sport, and it’s very inexpensive,” Ms. Martino said. “Basically, all you need is a Frisbee.”

She added that “once you put (a course) in, very little upkeep is needed.”

Additionally, Mr. Dennehy said those serious about the sport tend to be young and have disposable income; therefore, a new course could draw that demographic to Milford.

The board also discussed the possibility of adding pickleball courts somewhere in town. The game features players hitting small whiffle balls with rackets over a tennis net on a badminton-sized court.

“It’s one of the fastest-growing sports for retirees in the nation,” Mr. Dennehy said. “There’s along the lines of 1,000 pickleball players in Sussex County.”

Recently, he said the city has been working with a Sussex County resident who’s a member of a national pickleball association. Additionally, a retired engineer and pickleball player in Milford has volunteered to draw up some preliminary schematics for pickleball facilities in different places around town, which were featured at the meeting.

“This seems to be gathering a bit of traction,” Mr. Dennehy said of public support for a facility like this. Therefore, he’s moving the project from the department’s “back burner” to its “front burner.”

The department is considering repurposing part of one of its parking lots for the court, but Mr. Dennehy said the representative from Sussex County believes a purpose-built set of courts would be best, as they are softer if a player happens to fall.

Mr. Dennehy said that pickleball facilities in other nearby municipalities are heavily used and that he hopes Milford can capitalize on that, as well. He wants to build at least six courts, so the city could hold tournaments.

But the department isn’t just focused on people. For Milford’s furry, four-legged friends, a third section has been added to the dog park.

“The third section we’ve created is for agile dogs. Basically, it’s for those dogs who want to rip and rear,” Mr. Dennehy said.

“We’ve had a lot of feedback wanting a third additional section of the dog park,” he said. “The reason for putting the third section in there is because we get a lot of use at the dog park.”

Currently, Mr. Dennehy said the two sections “almost get overused in terms of the number of dogs who are there. … You may have 30 dogs down there at one time, and they really tear up the grass.”

This has led to issues with maintaining the lawn within the dog park.

“To be honest, we really need to take one of those sections offline at a time, so we can do maintenance to one of those sections,” Mr. Dennehy said.

Now, he said the department has the “chance, at times, to shut one of the sections down and fertilize it, put weed and feed down, make improvements as necessary.”

The director also provided an update on the memorandum of understanding he’s drafting to have the Parks & Recreation Department enter an agreement with the Delaware Nature Society, which runs the Abbott’s Mill Nature Center outside of town.

The agreement, which Mr. Dennehy said is 99% done, will have DNS enter a partnership with the city to provide educational opportunities and other nature-centric programming along the Riverwalk and Milford’s various bodies of water.

When complete, the memorandum will be sent to City Council for final approval.