On Wednesday, December 10, Abbott Mill Nature Center welcomed a new director, Matt Babbitt, who came to Delaware from Virginia. Matt, who attended Longview University in Virginia, says that he is excited to work in the Milford area.
“I discovered this opportunity while I was working in Washington DC,” Matt said. “I was working for a non-profit, teaching fly fishing to seventh graders in an under-served population. That was a grant program and when the grant ended, I was looking for something different. Abbott’s Mill seemed to have a pretty successful history, considering they are celebrating 50 years, and after living in the city for so long, I was ready for something that wasn’t so fast-moving.”
Matt has worked in programs in Southern California, the Catskills of New York, Catalina Island and in Washington DC. He said he has literally worked in all varieties of nature, from mountains to desert to ocean. Matt, who grew up outside of Richmond, said he had only been to Delaware when he and friends visited Lewes or Rehoboth on short weekend visits. He had not visited the Milford area prior to applying for the position.
“This area has so much ecology, with salt marshes and ponds surrounding us,” Matt said. “In my first year, I hope to acclimate myself to the area. Just like in school, the new kid stands out, and I am the new kid. My hope is to build and strengthen the programs we already have. The best thing is I have a great team to work with who are very dedicated to the center.”
Matt says that the biggest challenge he sees facing him is filling the shoes of the previous director, Jason Beale, who had been at Abbotts Mill for eight years. Matt said that Jason had a strong presence in the Milford community and he hoped that he would be able to develop the same relationship.
“It is a challenge, but it is exciting at the same time,” Matt said. “it is a challenge that does not look daunting.” Matt says he knows a little about the history of the mill and said that one of the things that surprised him was that all of the ponds in the area were man-made. In his leisure time, Matt enjoys canoeing and fishing. He hopes to spend some time paddling among the many ponds in the area to familiarize himself with them.
“I live on site and my door is always open,” Matt said. “The park is open seven days per week from dawn to dusk. We have installed many boardwalks in the park that are handicap accessible, and we are hoping to install more in the near future.”
Abbott’s Mill Nature Center, with its preserved, working mill, is owned by Delaware’s Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and operated by the Delaware Nature Society. Located along Abbott’s Pond just southwest of Milford, the Nature Center manages 313 acres. This diverse nature preserve supports a variety of forested, field and wetland habitats and includes hiking trails, boardwalks and teaching stations that provide educational opportunities for all ages.