On Saturday, September 6, state and local officials dedicated the final phase of the Mispillion Greenway with the opening of Goat Island. After comments from officials and a ribbon cutting ceremony, arborist Bill Pike led the group on a tour of the island. After its final inspection this week, visitors will be able to experience four separate ecosystems along the trail that 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 traverse the wetland sensitive areas.
A manmade island, Goat Island was created by local shipbuilders in the 1940’s as they needed to straighten out the path of the Mispillion River to make way for the wooden subchasers that were built in Milford shipyards. These subchasers were used in the larger war effort during World War II as many of them saw service around the world including Pearl Harbor, Normandy and Japan. The target area of the Goat Island project consists of an nine acre island located within the city limits containing four adjoining habitat environments: high woodland, tidal flooded woodland, tidal freshwater wetland marsh and open water. Goat Island Nature Park now anchors the eastern most phase of the Mispillion Greenway as the final phase of the Riverwalk project, resulting in a two mile pedestrian and bicycle path.
“This is not only a celebration of Goat Island, but also of Gary Emory who was instrumental in making the Riverwalk happen,” said Mayor Bryan Shupe about the City of Milford Parks & Recreation Director of 35 years. “This is a 23-phase bike and pedestrian path and has taken over 30 years to complete. It is a wonderful way to celebrate Milford’s focus on ecotourism.”
Senator Gary Simpson agreed that the project deserved a day of celebration, pointing out that the Goat Island phase of the project officially connected Silver Lake to Goat Island so that visitors and residents could enjoy the natural beauty of Milford. “This project is beautiful from beginning to end,” Senator Simpson said. “I am proud to have been a part of this and want to remind you that your dollars helped fund this worthwhile project.”
Representative Harvey Kenton said that he had learned recently that the Mispillion Greenway is the largest municipal park in Delaware and that he was proud to be a part of something so important. He pointed out that he remembered when the entire area was nothing but marsh and swamp land “Everyone came together to create this wonderful attraction,” Representative Kenton said. “In 15 to 20 years, I see ecotourism being a major benefit to Milford. I see everything from Lofland’s shipbuilding area to the Mispillion River being a big attraction for tourists.” Also in attendance at the dedication was Representative Dave Wilson who said that he expected the area to be attractive to visitors and residents alike.
In 1974, the Mispillion Greenway study determined that ecotourism was growing and plans were developed to create an area that would foster community pride, ecotourism and the public’s growing desire for more healthy lifestyles. Emory states that visitors to the Goat Island Nature 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.
“Every time I walk the path, I see something different,” said Gary Emory, Director of Milford Parks and Recreation, who was instrumental in getting the project completed. “The area is home to many types of wildlife, including deer, muskrats, groundhogs and more. There are also a significant number of birds that use this area as a natural habitat. In fact, there are so many birds, there may be times we have to close areas of the trail during nesting season.”
Mr. Emory explained that there are varying reports of how the island got its name, but the most common legend is that a farmer used to float his goat herd to the island each summer and let them forage throughout the season, then float them back in the fall, giving the island its name. In 1976, the city purchased the island from Bob Fischer for $32,000. Mr. Emory said it was the first land purchased for the project and the last to be completed. He said that the city hoped to add overlooks and possibly a conference center in the area eventually. The island is not open for bike traffic due to the rough terrain, but bike racks will be installed at the entrance so that bikes can be secured and riders can walk the trail.
After comments from state and local officials, Mary Betts, Recreation Superintendent for Milford Parks and Recreation, announced that the area had officially been named the Gary L. Emory Nature Trail at Goat Island in Mr. Emory’s honor.“Gary will most be remembered for his dedication to the Mispillion River,” Ms. Betts said. “For this reason, it was only fitting to name a portion of this project in his honor.
Following a final inspection this wee, the trail will be open from dawn to dusk every day for public use.