A History of the
Delaware Nature Society
Since 1964, Delaware Nature Society's modest beginnings at Brandywine Creek State Park have evolved into environmental education programs and camps for more than 1.4 million people. The organization has facilitated preservation of more than 100,000 acres of open space and farmland. Stewardship of regional natural resources is effectively advocated. A few startup volunteers have grown into 21 full-time, 11 part-time and 120 seasonal instruction employees and more than 1,000 volunteers, located statewide at the Ashland and Abbott's Mill Nature Centers, Coverdale Farm Preserve, Cooch-Dayett Mills and DuPont Environmental Education Center.
The Delaware Nature Society (DNS) owns or manages more than 1,100 acres of wildlife habitat and educational preserves. Farm education programming is held at our 352-acre Coverdale Farm Preserve. Abbott's Mill's historic, water powered gristmill is preserved and operational. Delaware Nature Society's Burrows Run and Flint Woods Preserves in New Castle County and Marvel Saltmarsh and Cedar Bog Preserves in Sussex County provide extensive field study opportunities.
Encouraged by the Wilmington Junior League and a dozen nature and education-related organizations, DNS was incorporated on September 28, 1964. Its consistent mission has been to foster understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the natural world, preserve ecologically significant areas and advocate stewardship and conservation of natural resources. Unlike many nature centers that offer environmental education only, DNS has Natural Resource Conservation and Advocacy components also. In addition, it is the Delaware affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), with input on national issues of concern in our region.
- Delaware Nature Education Center incorporated September 28 with 41 charter members
- Lynn W. Williams elected first Board chair
- Fall program of nature walks and interpretive lectures conducted
- Office and educational programs established at Delaware's newly acquired Brandywine Creek State Park
- Interpretative nature programs developed at Cape Henlopen State Park
- Charles E. Mohr hired as first Executive Director
- Indian Spring Nature Center delineated within Brandywine Creek State Park
- Park flora and fauna inventoried
- Permanent exhibits, in-school programs, and nature walks expanded by volunteer guides
- Lynn Williams testified at Delaware River Basin Commission's water quality hearings
- Operations moved into new Brandywine Creek Nature Center building
- Nature walks, lecture series, courses for public school teachers increased
- Plans formulated to relocate Society headquarters on Red Clay Reservation property
- First summer day camp held
- Environmental education program piloted in Wilmington schools
- Michael E. Riska hired as Youth Director
- Wilmington Public Schools contracted for environmental awareness programs in all fourth grades
- Norman G. Wilder appointed Executive Director following Mohr's resignation
- Summer camp program moved to renovated Nature Barn at Red Clay Reservation
- Graduate level environmental education course initiated at University of Delaware
- Natural Areas Survey initiated to identify unspoiled Delaware sites with natural significance
- Howard P. Brokaw elected Board chair
- With other environmental groups, Society began ongoing defense of the 1971 Coastal Zone Act
- Under EPA contract, Society formed Delaware Water Quality Institute to communicate public responsibilities under the federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972
- First major fund drive raised $100,000
- Construction of new facilities at Ashland started
- First programs held at Wesley College Environmental Education Center
- Organization's name changed to Delaware Nature Education Society
- New facility at Red Clay Reservation dedicated September 25; named Ashland Nature Center
- Mike Riska appointed Assistant Director
- Potential operations at Abbott's Mill discussed with State Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs
- First Environmental Careers in Industry Conference held for high school students and guidance counselors
- Delaware Nature Education Society and Environmental Education Center of Dover merged
- Society successfully advocated creation of a State system of nature preserves
- Delaware's Outstanding Natural Areas and Their Preservation published
- Wildflowers of Delaware and the Eastern Shore published
- Abbott's Mill renovations began with Society's agreement to conduct programming
- Under Office of Coastal Zone Management contract, Society served as clearinghouse for Year of the Coast projects
- Jack Harrison elected Board chair
- Abbott's Mill dedicated June 7
- Andrew A. Smith elected Board chair
- Farm program started at the Barn on Old Wilmington Road
- Film Countdown for Natural Areas produced
- Graduate level Environmental Institution Management course initiated
- Wildflower Sale event initiated and supported by volunteers
- Bernard S. Dempsey elected Board chair
- Michael E. Riska appointed Executive Director following Norman Wilder's retirement
- Land purchased to expand Abbott's Mill site; designated Cedar Bog Preserve
- Volunteers received the National Recreation and Park Association award
- Stream Watch program started in cooperation with DNREC
- Statewide reptile and amphibian survey launched
- The Abbott's Mill Educational Building constructed and dedicated
- Lindale Tract, adjacent to Abbott's Mill, acquired by State
- Society hosted first conference on Red Clay Creek problems and prospects
- Operational endowment campaign raised $1 million
- Clendaniel property surrounding Abbott's Pond acquired by State and leased to Society
- Stewardship Recognition Program targeted landowners to preserve natural lands
- Society received President Reagan's "Take Pride in America" award
- Marvel Family donated 110 acres of prime salt marsh near Slaughter Beach
- Mill repair and renovation started at Abbott's Mill
- Organization's name changed to Delaware Nature Society and new logo adopted
- Construction started on new classroom and dormitory lodge at Ashland
- Capital campaign to cover construction costs and maintenance endowment raised $1.7 million
- Ashland Lodge dedicated; office area, library, and Nature Store renovated
- Under a long term lease with Red Clay Reservation, Society assumed maintenance responsibility for Ashland buildings and property
- Greenewalt family donated the Burrows Run Preserve, a 110 acre stream corridor
- Stream Watch expanded to include technical monitoring
- McDonald and DeStefano families granted conservation easements including a natural area and greenway parcel
- Air Resources Subcommittee formed to provide air quality education and leadership
- Stewardship program expanded to include 186 landowners protecting 4,900 acres and 21 miles of stream corridors
- Flint family donated 35 acres of Flint Woods, an old growth forest
- Butterflies of Delmarva published
- Society affiliated with National Wildlife Federation
- With other organizations, Society launched NatureLink program for underserved families from urban populations
- Soil Watch launched to reduce erosion and sedimentation in streams
- State added 12-acre Lee Tract to Abbott's Mill Center
- Campaign to permanently endow preservation activities raised $1.4 million
- Peter H. Flint elected Board chair
- Society lands increased 107 acres through gifts from Mrs. Nicholas DuPont, Thomas Marshall, the Flint family and conservation easements by the Silliman and Mortenson families
- Old Kennett Foundation donated 229 acres adjacent to Burrows Run Preserves including historic Coverdale Farm Preserve to create a 352 acre preserve
- Flint family donated 2.3 acres to augment Society's Flint Woods Preserve plus a 44-acre conservation easement within Flint Woods Natural Area
- Frederick family donated 20.7 acre easement on farmland across from Burrows Run Preserve; Bancroft Construction donated 2.7 acres in Red Clay Creek floodplain
- In partnership with Stroud Water Research Center, created and distributed watershed video, Protecting Our Water: Who's Got the Power?
- Preservation started to make Abbott's Mill operational
- Flint Woods Preserve dedicated as a State Nature Preserve
- Farm program moved to Coverdale Farm Preserve
- Portion of Burrows Run Preserve dedicated as a State Nature Preserve
- Birds of Delaware published
- Blair's Pond Nature Trail at Abbott's Mill dedicated
- Conservation easements totaling 130 acres donated by the Frederick, Lunger, and Lefren families
- Mortenson family donated property in White Clay Creek watershed
- Backyard Wildlife Habitat program introduced
- Major Ashland renovations started
- Isaacs family donated wooded wetlands along Abbott's Pond tributary
- Delaware's Ecosystems added to Society's graduate courses at University of Delaware
- Amphibians & Reptiles of Delmarva published
- $7.8 million capital campaign successfully completed
- Renovated and expanded Ashland Nature Center dedicated on April 6
- Abbott's historic gristmill preserved enabling demonstrations of water power operation
- Coverdale springhouse restoration begins
- Society's net assets exceeded $37 million
- University of Delaware's School of Education included the four graduate courses provided by Delaware Nature Society in their Environmental Education Course of Study.
- Delaware's Ecosystems (SCEN569) has obtained permanent status as a University of Delaware course offering.
- Land Conservation Forum held on May 24, 2005 with keynote speaker Patrick F. Noonan.
- A national Farm Education Symposium held November 3, 4 and 5, 2005 with keynote speaker Michael Ableman.
- The book Educating today...preserving for tomorrow, the history of the Delaware Nature Society at 40 years was published as part of the celebration of the Society's 40th anniversary.
- Red Clay Valley Scenic Byway received approval in April 2005 for 27 roads.
- House Bill 77 designated the stonefly as the official State Macroinvertebrate and Governor signed into law on June 14, 2005.
- Coverdale Farm Preserveland Preservation District approved for eligibility by the Aglands Foundation board on September 14, 2005.
- A Boy Scout built the Isaac's Tract boardwalk leading through stands of Atlantic white cedar as his Eagle Scout project and a Girl Scout built a teaching platform at the end of the boardwalk as her gold project.
- Initiated 20-year annual Capital Development Program.
- Through the work of the Preservation Coalition the Farmland Preservation Program achieved a permanent revenue stream of $10 million per year from the state's Real Estate Transfer Tax.
- Delaware Nature Society transferred the last ten acres of the Marshall property as agreed during the 2002 Auburn Heights land swap with the Long property and finalized a conservation easement on the Long property to be held by DNREC.
- The Delaware Nature Society received the "Excellence in Communication Award" for best web site from the Association of Fundraising Professional's Brandywine chapter.
- The preservation of the gristmill was completed by contractors Rick Frunzi and Rob Howard. The mill stones, roller mills, and other equipment are up and running flawlessly.
- Jeff Gordon joined a specially selected volunteer team searching for ivory-billed woodpeckers in eastern Arkansas coordinated by Cornell's Laboratory of Ornithology. Jim White will join the ivory-bill team in March 2006. Jeff and Jim are the only two Delawareans selected from a nationwide pool of hundreds of applicants.
- A singing male Swainson's Warbler observed along the Blairs Pond Trail for a few days in late May 2005. This was the fourth occurrence ever of this species in Delaware, and the first to be photographed in the state.
- The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation Board approved the Coverdale District on January 11, 2006, thereby creating the first district above the C and D Canal.
- On February 12, 2007, the Board of Directors of the Delaware Nature Society adopted the Land Trust Standards and Practices as guidelines for the organizations operation.
- In November 2006, the Board of Directors approved the Society's updated Climate Change Policy.
- With Delaware Nature Society's opposition, the Land Protection Act was preserved.
- The Burrows Ridge conservation easement was signed and recorded in November 10, 2006. The easement protects the community open space within the development (includes the Burrows run corridor) and portions of 4 individual lots for a total acreage of 30.37 acres.
- The Bove Property conservation easement was signed on December 15th, 2006 and recorded on December 19, 2006. The easement protects the entire 3.35-acre portion of the property.
- The Bredin Property conservation easement was signed on December 11, 2006 and recorded on December 15, 2006. The easement protects the entire 83.79-acre property.
- On February 2, 2006, the Delaware Nature Society signed a conservation easement agreement with the Trustees of the Protestant Episcopal Church of Diocese of Delaware on their Oberod property.
- The Townsend Community Habitat was the first community Habitat in Delaware to be certified.
- Environmental Advocate position was endowed.
- Capital Development Program Board Committee was created.
- Conversion of the Society's data management systems from Access to iMIS took place.
- Revisions to the Society's Employee Manual was completed and approved by the Board of Directors, including a revised Volunteer Philosophy.
- In November 2006 the Board of Directors approved pursuing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at Coverdale Farm Preserve.
- Public visitation established at Coverdale Farm Preserve through Wonderful Wednesdays program.
- The mill at Abbott's Mill was run for the first time in public during The Power of Water, a Mill Day event held to Celebrate Archeology Awareness Month.
- An Eagle Scout bridge building project on Tree Top Trail was completed.
- Renovations to the Longhouse at Abbott's Mill were completed by Jonathan Hart as his Eagle Scout Project.
- Boy scout Andrew Fisher completed his Eagle Scout project, a boardwalk from Pine Forest area to Johnson's Branch at Abbott's Mill.
- Co-sponsored with Garden Club of Wilmington a conference on White-tailed Deer Management at the Ashland Center.
- Jim White, as a volunteer for Cornell Lab of Ornithology, participated for a two-week Ivory-Billed Woodpecker field search project in Arkansas.
- University of Delaware conducted a night insect survey at Flint Woods Preserve and found an underwing moth Catacola minuta that has not been recorded in Delaware since the 1940's.
- A new butterfly species (White-M Hairstreak) was documented for Burrow's Run Preserve (Valley).
- Two populations of Baltimore Checkerspots were found at Burrow's Run Preserve. This is the only known location these butterflies are found in the state of Delaware.
- The Division of Historic and Cultural Affairs contracted with Delaware Nature Society to provide educational programs at Cooch-Dayett Mills in Newark, DE.
- On April 12, 2007, the Riverfront Development Corporation unanimously agreed to have DNS manage the Peterson Refuge Nature Center. A ground breaking ceremony was held October 26, 2007 at the Riverfront.
- The draft Corridor Management Plan for the Red Clay Scenic Byway was completed.
- Conservation easements for the properties owned by Charles & Pat Robertson and Jeff & Carol Bove were signed on 12/18/07.
- Milford Millponds Natural Area was given Nature Preserve Designation on October 20th, 2007 signing.
- The Morton property (13.75 acres) was purchased and is now owned and managed by the DE Division of Fish and Wildlife.
- The Delaware Nature Society, in addition to partners such as the Brandywine Conservancy, Environmental Defense, and the Pennsylvania Association of Land Trusts, signed on to a petition to the Department of Energy for a re-hearing and immediate stay of the Department's order on the final designation of National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors.
- Delaware Nature Society prevailed in an appeal in Delaware Superior Court challenging the Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board's decision to allow Vane Line Bunkering to conduct oil lightering activities at Big Stone Anchorage.
- Howard Brokaw was presented the first Lifetime Achievement Award by the Delaware Nature Society for his lifelong dedication and commitment to preserving natural resources locally, nationally, and internationally.
- Delaware Nature Society's Naturalist Certification Program established.
- A land and biodiversity management plan for 850 acres at the Middle Run Valley Natural Area was developed and submitted for review by New Castle County.
- A woodland restoration project along the springhouse rill accomplished with volunteers employed by HCH Bank.
- Two woodland restoration projects took place at Middle Run Valley Natural Area utilizing 139 volunteers to plant 1,000 native trees.
- Ashland Nature Center's 4 trails were renovated and new interpretive markers installed. New trail brochures were drafted.
- Eagle Scout candidate Kyle Hendrix completed the White Cedar Trail Bridge on the Isaac's property.
- Johnson's Branch Boardwalk project was completed with the help of members of AmeriCorps, volunteers and staff.
- A Hawk Watch was established at Ashland funded by Delaware Ornithological Society. Data was sent daily to the Hawk Migration Association of North America.
- Ashland Nature Center hosted for the first time a "Big Sit", an annual, international, noncompetitive birding event.
- The first nest recorded in Delaware of Sharp Shinned hawks were discovered on the Ashland property.
- There was a rare sighting of a Saw-whet Owl at the Burrows Run Preserve.
- Bobcat tracks near Abbott's Mill were confirmed by Pennsylvania Game Commission.
- The Society successfully implemented the creation of an online system to process realtime transactions linked directly to the data management system for membership, donations and program registration.
- The Society launched the use of the Informz E-mail system to more efficiently communicate and distribute brochures and announcements.
- "The Nature of Delaware" is the Delaware Nature Society's new blog featuring Field Trips, Outdoor Observations, and Environmental Topics.
- The upgraded website, featuring Technical Monitoring data, graphs, site photographs, and maps has been completed with funding from DuPont Clear into the Future Natural Resource Conservation and Restoration Grant Program.
- The Delaware Nature Society hosted a gubernatorial candidate forum on environmental issues on Earth Day.
- The Delaware Nature Society has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to become an affiliate organization.
- DelDOT Secretary Carolann Wicks formally approved the Corridor Management Plan for the 28-road network that composes the Red Clay Valley Scenic Byway on May 12, 2008. A celebration of this achievement was coupled with the Ashland Covered Bridge Re-Opening Ceremony.
- The Milford Millponds Nature Preserve was dedicated. The Morton property acquisition now connects 144 contiguous acres.
- A loop trail was established through Pope, Savage, and Blair's Tracts near Abbott's Mill Nature Center.
- The Delaware Red Clay Valley Important Bird Area nomination was accepted as a State level Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society
- Together with conservation partners, the Delaware Nature Society nominated the Red Knot for inclusion in the Endangered Species Coalition's publication, "Without a Net: Top Ten Species in Need of Endangered Species Act Protection."
- In the Ashland lodge a new generator was installed to provide consistent power for overnight programming.
- At Coverdale Farm Preserve the operations center was completed along with the site work which included a septic system and roadways. Farmyard buildings were built and made handicapped accessible for program participants.
- The Harvest Moon Festival featured a new "Farm to Fork" event consisting of either a wine or beer tasting along with a sit down tasting meal prepared by a local chef.
- The official signing of the Red Clay Valley Scenic Byway Management Plan took place on January 5, 2009.