Council approves investment in eco-tourism plan

Terry RogersEnvironment, Government, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

A logo created by the WIIN project touting the Mispillion as “Delaware’s hidden river”

Milford City Council recently approved an Ecotourism and Resilience Investment Strategy. The strategy was the culmination of the Waterways Infrastructure and Investment Network (WIIN) project. The project spent the last two years talking with stakeholders and developing a nature-based watershed investment strategy for both Milford and Slaughter Beach.

“Essentially, it incorporates information we’ve gained through an economic valuation study that we that we did through the University of Maryland’s Environmental Finance Center that found that the natural resources of the Mispillion River and Cedar Creek watersheds contribute millions of dollars in value just for recreation and leisure alone,” Danielle Swallow with Delaware Sea Grant of the University of Delaware said. “We also note that there’s plenty of other benefits that they bring to the communities in the form of flood protection and biodiversity and cultural and heritage and contributing to the overall community identities and in these communities. We did a lot of stakeholder engagement and vulnerability assessment work to that stakeholder engagement that was really important in in us developing our strategy.”

Swallow explained that with the new strategy, the towns of Slaughter Beach and Milford have a vision that centers around the Mispillion as well as Cedar Creek along with a collection of community-generated project ideas that balance both sustainability and resilience while also increasing economic opportunities.

“It has a collection of different investment ideas for the community to take on. It’s not a management plan. So it’s not prescriptive, it’s more to outline the vision, which is that these resources are too valuable not to invest in into the future,” Swallow said. “So, with that we had Ben Muldrow here I think that the last time I was here, and he gave to you on the branding and marketing strategy that we included as part of this effort. We felt that that was really important because we don’t want this strategy to sit on a shelf. In fact, we’re really hopeful that you’ll take it up and you’ll want to look at some of the recommendations in there and work to implement it. You have this partnership behind you that’s willing to support you on that.”

In addition, Swallow asked that if the city did any updates to the Comprehensive Plan that they incorporate pieces of the vision into that plan. She stated that the investment strategy was to encourage and excite people while also bringing in investors. One of the features of the plan was branding the Mispillion as Delaware’s “hidden river.”

“This was based on the fact that we found so few folks had really been able to go beyond the Riverwalk limits of the river or down by Slaughter Beach,” Swallow said. “There’s a whole expanse that is waiting to be discovered. WE want to encourage people to find ways to discover and projects that allow for more access and ability to discover them safely.”

Councilman Brian Baer asked for more details on a bike path that was included as part of the strategy.

“Sarah and Julia, who was my town manager got together and they thought, wonder if we could make this work. It’s really dangerous to go from Milford to Slaughter Beach on a bike,” Bob Wood, Mayor of Slaughter Beach, said. “If you go down Slaughter Beach Road, you got to go Route 1, you’ve got to take your bike across Route 1. But if you come down Cedar Beach Road, because of a bridge there, you can come right on down. So, we thought well, to be honest with you, this isn’t gonna happen. They put in for a grant and we’re already at the second stage. We’re past the first stage so I figure that is some progress.”

Wood explained that the idea was that people in Milford would be able to bicycle to Slaughter Beach for the day or residents of Slaughter Beach could travel into Milford via bicycle to do some shopping or visit local restaurants.

“Because keeping this in mind that with the whole idea of the WIIN presentation, we’re already seeing ecotourism coming to town. Right now, all we have is a soda machine. So 99% of stuff they buy, they buy here in Milford, and that’s fine by us. That’s not what we’re in business to do. It’s not what we do,” Wood said. “But I think it’s really an economic benefit and it’s already starting. Pretty soon that the horseshoe crabs will come in. We have a small Boardwalk. We get 10,000 visitors on that boardwalk a year. For a little town like ours, that’s amazing to us. Down by the firehouse we have one thing that most towns don’t have on the bay, we have a real bathroom. And the advantage of that is who can come they can stay longer. They can come for a few days or come on down for weeks.”

Wood pointed out that even during the WIIN project, it was amazing to see the number of people who were spending the day on Slaughter Beach.

“There is nothing wrong with Rehoboth. There is nothing wrong with Lewes. They’re both great,” Wood said. “But it’s just a totally different vibe. It’s a natural beach. We welcome visitors. We get a lot of school kids and many come from the elementary schools here. And we’re glad to have them because the horseshoe crabs are just amazing. I mean, they’re 440 million years old. They’ve been coming in there for millions of years along with all these shorebirds, and I mean kids just light up when they see it. That is really pretty cool.”

Council voted to approve the investment strategy unanimously.




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