a close up of a pond

Delaware state parks receive national award for excellence

Charles MegginsonCulture, Headlines

a close up of a pond

Trap Pond State Park. Photo courtesy of DNREC.

Delaware’s state parks have won a national award for excellence in park and recreation management.

The recognition from the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration and National Recreation and Park Association is judged on long-range planning, resource management, innovation and fiscal responsibility.

This marks the second time Delaware’s state parks received the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management, having previously won it in 2015. 

“To be awarded the National Gold Medal is a testament to the dedication of the Division of Parks and Recreation and our state’s natural and cultural resources,” Gov. John Carney said of the recognition. “Delaware State Parks provide refuge for millions of Delawareans and visitors each year, and were critical to the public’s mental and physical health as we navigated the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In May, the state park systems of Delaware, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas were selected as finalists in the State Parks Division, with Delaware ultimately emerging as the recipient. The biennial Gold Medal award has only been given 13 times since its establishment in 1997. 

DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin said the award is a testament to the passion, dedication and commitment of the Division of Parks and Recreation team, which he called “second to none in stewardship of our award-winning state parks.”

Among the distinctions that DNREC says likely contributed to Delaware winning the award are:

  • Delaware State Parks welcomes more than 6 million guests annually and has seen record breaking growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, campground nights booked grew by 57% from 70,880 nights in 2012 to 111,376 nights in 2020.
  • The division is committed to innovation, including creative public-private partnerships such as the Fort Miles Museum, Big Chill Beach Club and the establishment of Auburn Valley State Park from one of the most contaminated and flood-prone sites in the state.
  • The division’s impact on the economy includes support for more than 6,000 jobs through concessionaire and partnership agreements.
  • The economic impact of visitors to the state includes $319 million in spending generated from Cape Henlopen, Killens Pond, Lums Pond, Delaware Seashore and Trap Pond state park campgrounds.
  • Despite being 20 times smaller than any other finalist state, Delaware boasts a diverse and robust state park system featuring ocean parks like Fenwick, Delaware Seashore and Cape Henlopen, urban parks such as Wilmington, Alapocas and Bellevue, historic parks such as Fort Delaware and First State Heritage Park and a variety of other amenities including Deerfield and Garrison’s Lake golf courses, Brandywine Zoo, Killens Water Park and the Indian River Marina.

Delaware and Florida are the only state park systems to win the award more than once.

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