by Terry Rogers
On Thursday, October 18, as a blustery wind blew across the Delaware Bay, Governor Jack Markell, local legislators and council members stood along the marshes in Slaughter Beach to break ground for a new boardwalk that is scheduled for completion in the spring. Mayor Harry Ward of Slaughter Beach kicked off the event, thanking all who made the project possible.
“We’ve got 230 permanent residents,” Mayor Ward said. “That population quadruples on any given summer weekend. But, we also have approximately 2,250 students who visit us every year to learn about the shore, the bay, the marshes and the ecosystem that the bay and marsh support. Think about that. We have ten times the number of students than we have general population. What an amazing educational opportunity. We are a sleepy little beach community that has mostly transformed itself from what was once at totally fishing community to a retreat for many weekenders and those who wish to experience nature up front and up close. This is done with a balance and concern for preserving the best from our past with a mindset of what is best for our future.”
The boardwalk project was the vision of Bill McSpadden, a Slaughter Beach resident who believed that a boardwalk would help others learn more about the special ecosystem that exists in Slaughter Beach. As part of the Delaware Bayshore Initiative, McSpadden and other residents began working with DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife in order to develop projects that would draw attention to the small beach town’s natural resources. The new, 200-foot boardwalk will overlook an osprey nest that was installed several years ago and has produced at least seven offspring.
“This is really cool,” Governor John Carney said at the groundbreaking. “ I tell people that my job as governor is to create a place where people want to live, work and raise their family. To do that, we gotta have cool stuff. Cool stuff will enable us to keep the businesses here, the jobs that they bring to attract others to our state, like the young people that are important to man and woman those businesses who come here. That is part of my job.”
According to Mayor Ward, wetlands are critical to the health of the environment in Slaughter Beach. They act as nature’s nursery for a host of animals, from blue crabs to diamondback terrapins. Educating people, especially children, is critical to the preservation of marshlands and the delicate ecosystem they help support.
The boardwalk project will be installed in the Marvel Preserve, land that was purchased by the Marvel family in 1959. Eventually, the land was deeded to the Marvel children who donated the property to the Delaware Nature Society. The boardwalk project was conducted in two phases. The first was a design phase with the town hiring Landscape Architectural Services to not only design the boardwalk but also provide an estimated cost for construction. A matching grant from DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation funded Phase I of the project using funds provided by the town of Slaughter Beach, DNS, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and the Bayshore Initiative. Phase II of the project will be construction with completion planned for Spring 2019.
“Fundamentally, today, we are living out the oath of office that we each take and I was reminded of that as I drove in over the marshes here along the bay,” Governor Carney said. “Part of that oath is to always respect the right of future generations to enjoy the rich, historic and natural beauty of Delaware.”