The Future Looks Bright for Goat Island


By Gary L. Emory, Director of Milford Parks and Recreation

I thought the time was appropriate to shed light on the future of the Goat Island Nature Education Park. In my travels around town I am often asked the questions…”What’s the future plans for Goat Island?”, “How will it benefit the community?”, “When will the Island be accessible to the public?”  , and “Why develop Goat Island?”

These are fair inquiries based on the recent completion of an 8’ wide 130’ long pedestrian bridge over the Mispillion River reaching from the Warnell Greenway to Goat Island. Several naysayers in the community have dubbed the span “The Bridge to Nowhere.” However I have a more optimistic approach and choose to view the span as “The Bridge to the Future.”

I’ll address the last question first. “Why Develop Goat Island?”…. The target area consists of an eight-acre island located within the city limits containing four adjoining habitat environments: high woodland, tidal flooded woodland, tidal freshwater wetland marsh and open water. These four diverse habitats located in one central area allow for unique nature study opportunities for the citizens of Milford, young and old alike. The proposed circuitous trail that will be developed on the site will provide an opportunity for educating visitors about the various flora and fauna that occupy the Island’s four ecosystems. Education will be provided by the City of Milford Parks and Recreation staff and interpretive signs throughout the park.

The project will benefit the community by providing residents and visitors to Milford the opportunity to travel between the city’s recreational, cultural, business and environmental attractions without use of an automobile. Visitors to the park will benefit by hands on learning about wetlands, environmental ecology, woodland habitat and associated plant and animal interrelationships, including songbird nesting and varied insect and amphibian habitat relationships.

The Goat Island project will be a key benefit to the city’s eco-tourism initiative and will promote economic development for the citizens of Milford and Kent and Sussex Counties. The Island will be an educational resource for area schools, community and nature groups.

The cost to develop Goat Island Nature Education Park is substantial. The proposed cost to complete the project is estimated at $800,000.00 and would take approximately two years once funding resources have been identified and secured.

The park will include a nature study area with seating, display boards and work tables. The trail will consist of an at grade path with raised overlook areas including benches and information panels. In addition raised composite decking on helical anchors with observation areas will traverse the wetland sensitive areas.

In the meantime, the Island will be restricted to public access due to liability concerns which include safety and security issues. The Island’s environmental sensitivity is also a concern and needs to be managed accordingly.

Upon completion “Goat Island Nature Park” will anchor the eastern most phase of the Mispillion Greenway which will result in a one mile contiguous pedestrian walkway to be enjoyed by the citizens of Milford and future generations for years to come.