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White Clay Creek State Park is growing

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media

The Delaware Open Space program is acquiring three parcels of land to add to White Clay Creek State Park.

“We’re looking at 275 acres of land added to the over 3,600 acres that make up White Clay Creek State Park,” DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin, who adds the acquisition will make up nearly 8% of White Clay’s land holdings.

The acquisition will be done in three phases.

90 acres were already acquired in September. 97 more acres are expected to be added this summer, and the final 88 acres will be acquired later this year.

The roughly $26 million acquisition is already fully funded.

$20 million is coming from the Open Space program, $6 million from the Mt. Cuba Foundation, and $500,000 from the Acres for America federal grant program.

Gov. John Carney says the Delaware Open Space program has achieved incredible results in land preservation over the past three decades.

“And this compilation of land and the work of so many people in White Clay Creek State Park is probably the crown jewel,” said Carney. “It certainly is the crown jewel for many of the people who live in this area and love this piece of natural area in our state.”

The White Clay acquisition is the largest, funding wise, and represents the largest private partner contribution to a Parks and Recreation project in the history of the Delaware Open Space program.

White Clay Creek State Park started off with just 24.3 acres of land in 1968. It was built piece by piece through decades of land acquisitions, and as of 2021 it has grown to 3,689 acres.

The new parcels of land are located off of Corner Ketch Road in the northeastern area of the park.

Division of Parks and Recreation Director Ray Bivens says it will be a couple of years until the new areas of the park will be ready for guests, but work is already underway.

“First step, and we’ve already started some of it, is to delineate wetlands and look at rare species. And then we can plan any development that does come,” said Bivens.

DNREC does not anticipate any major development on the sites, but will be taking necessary actions to ensure visitor comfort and safety.

The new land meets the criteria for high-quality natural habitat, and increases the potential to attract rare species to northern Delaware.

The Northern Parula warbler, Northern Harrier hawk, and the federally endangered Northern Long-Eared Bat are amongst the species DNREC hopes will make White Clay Creek State Park their home.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021.