There aren’t many nature walks that provide the opportunity to cover 4.6 billion years of history in a beautiful twenty minute stroll.
But the Delaware Museum of Natural History’s just-opened Evolution Trail – a 1,500 foot, handicapped-accessible paved loop that connect’s the museum’s 18-acre Greenville property with walking paths at the neighboring Country House senior community – does just that.
Cruisers on the new trail will get a crash course in world history – of the Earthiest and most ancient kind. Along the path key moments in the planet’s evolutionary history are presented on signage perfect for all ages, covering everything from the appearance of single-celled organisms, the emergence of complex early life, the dawn and death of dinosaurs, ending with – hopefully not as a dark harbinger of any kind – the emergence of Homo sapiens.
The Evolution Trail became possible thanks to the donation of an L-shaped plot of eight acres by the Country House and Acts Retirement-Life Communities.
Funding for the paving of the trail came from a Community Environmental Project Fund grant through the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). Landscape design was provided by Richard Lyon of Wallace Landscape Associates, and content for the signage by Jennifer Berlinger of Fairhope Graphics.
“Our neighbors are also our partners in many ways,” said Halsey Spruance, the museum’s executive director. “Country House residents and staff volunteer at and support the Museum, and we, in turn, provide programming at their site.”
Museum board president Richard Cairns said the trail’s walking timeline was an effective way to educate audiences of all ages.
“We’re excited about the opening of the trail, as it provides a scaled representation of deep time, a concept that is tough to grasp,” he said. “This especially hits home to me, as my grandson recently asked, “were dinosaurs around when you were young, Granddaddy?”
After beginning the trail, walkers will encounter five different stops along the way with signs that pull out and depict what life was like at a certain time in our evolution.
1. Life on earth takes form – early single cell organisms. The beginning panel has a gong which is meant to simulate the Big Bang.
2. Oxygen brings new life – climate continuing to change, the ice age, plants and organism that were existing then.
3. Diverse life erupts – oceans were full of life but there wasn’t much life on land.
4. Dinosaurs – dawn and death of dinosaurs and the era and different animals who were there at that time.
5. Humans arrive – humans are relative newcomers to Earth. This stop includes a mirror at lower height — intentionally meant for kids.