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Back to News In The News – January 8, 2024

In The News

Expansion of White Clay Creek State Park

Skunk cabbage plants in a wet grassy areaDOVER, Del. – Governor John Carney, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), and the Delaware Open Space Council announced an expansion of 275 acres to White Clay Creek State Park in Newark. This expansion of the nearly 3,650-acre park marks an historic investment to enhance recreational opportunities, bolster wildlife habitats, and preserve additional open lands in New Castle County.

With this addition to Delaware State Parks, DNREC has acquired more than 45,000 acres through the Open Space Program with combined state, federal and partner funds.

“As our state’s population continues to grow, we have to make sure that we have first-class recreational opportunities for our residents to enjoy, as well as our visitors. This acquisition allows us to provide those experiences and preserve Delaware’s open spaces,” said Governor Carney. “It represents the largest investment and private partner contributions to a DNREC Division of Parks and Recreation project in the Open Space Program’s history. And it honors the oath that elected officials take to ‘respect the right of future generations to share the rich historic and natural heritage of Delaware.’”

Governor Carney’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget included an increased budget of $20 million for the Delaware Open Space Program. This allowed the Open Space Program to acquire three key land parcels. These parcels included the last major privately-owned land within the park.

“This expansion of White Clay Creek State Park is part of DNREC’s commitment to preserving and conserving Delaware’s natural resources for current and future generations,” saidDNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “I would like to thank all of the partners who are helping to make this expansion possible, including Mt. Cuba Center and The Conservation Fund, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through Walmart’s Acres for America program, and with special thanks to the du Pont family.”

In a tribute to dedicated conservationist William K. du Pont, Sabrina du Pont-Langenegger and her husband Conrad Langenegger gifted a $1.3 million endowment through the Delaware Community Foundation to support Delaware State Parks.

The acquisition of the three parcels is progressing in three phases:

  • Phase 1 – about 90 acres – Acquisition completed in September 2023.
  • Phase 2 – about 97 acres – Acquisition anticipated in early 2024.
  • Phase 3 – about 88 acres – Acquisition anticipated in later 2024.

The $26 million project was made possible with $19.5 million from the Delaware Open Space Program and $6 million secured from Mt. Cuba Center through The Conservation Fund. The project was also awarded a $500,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through Walmart’s Acres for America program. This is the first time Acres for America has funded a project in Delaware and one of only ten competitive grants awarded nationwide.

The expansion project aligns with the White Clay Creek State Park Master Plan, which emphasizes keeping the park natural and maximizing its 37-mile trail system, a favorite feature among park users.

“These acquisitions will add much-needed open space in one of the fastest growing areas in our region,” said Blaine Phillips, senior vice president at The Conservation Fund. “It is a testament to Delaware’s long tradition of building partnerships to achieve major conservation outcomes. With significant contributions from the Delaware Open Space Program, Mt. Cuba Center, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through Walmart’s Acres for America program, and the du Pont-Langenegger family, the pieces all came together to create a huge benefit for the public to use and enjoy for generations to come.”

“Communities of native plants, migrating and nesting birds, and many other species rely on White Clay Creek’s woodlands, stream valleys and ridges,” said Ann C. Rose, Mt. Cuba Center’s president. “We are pleased our support will protect these habitats, and we thank all conservation partners involved for their collaboration and dedication to this important achievement.”

“White Clay Creek provides important habitat for hundreds of species, including those that live in and around the creeks and forests year-round, but also for migratory songbirds that might only visit for a few days on their annual migration up and down the eastern U.S.,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “Through Walmart’s Acres for America program, NFWF is proud to support this important project, where people will have the opportunity to connect with nature and will benefit from increased recreational opportunities.”

The expansion of White Clay Creek State Park, which is also part of the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic Rivers System, underscores Delaware’s dedication to preserving natural resources.

Created in 1990 by the Delaware Land Protection Act and guided by the Delaware Open Space Council, the Open Space Program is shared between DNREC’s divisions of Parks and Recreation and Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Agriculture’s Delaware Forest Service, and the Department of State’s Historical and Cultural Affairs.

For information about Delaware’s Open Space Program, visit de.gov/openspace.