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How much do you value natural resources at Delaware’s bayshore? A local researcher finds a number

Katie Peikes
Delaware Public Media

A new report finds the value of natural resources within the Mispillion and Cedar Creek watersheds in the millions of dollars.  

Attractions like the Abbott’s Mill Nature Center near Milford and Mispillion Riverwalk Greenway have recreational values between the hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars each year. That’s according to a report by a University of Maryland researcher commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts. 

Jennifer Egan of UMD’s Environmental Finance Center says her study built on existing survey-based research to estimate the value of natural resources for recreation and leisure.  

“This report is about, how do we look at the whole picture of what nature provides to people,” she said. “Not only the tangible market value, but also the importance of being by a river or walking in a forest versus another area that isn’t as natural.”

The report estimates the DuPont Nature Center and Mispillion Harbor have a recreational value of up to $1.15 million a year—based on shorebird viewing alone. It estimates the annual Slaughter Beach recreational value at around half a million dollars. 

The report also mentions salt marshes and other wetlands in the watersheds reduce monetary damage from storms. 

Egan says local nonprofits or governments can use the report to apply for grants to invest in the watershed. 

“The next step of the study is to then say, if you invest here, this is the potential benefit,” she said. “Again, it’s about increased human enjoyment, increased human choices for coming to this area.”

“This research underscores what residents and leaders of Delaware’s Bayshore have long known: The watersheds’ beauty, marine life, and recreational and historical resources are essential to the local way of life,” said Joseph Gordon, director of the conserving marine life in the United States project at The Pew Charitable Trusts, in a statement. “We envision the research as the first step in creating a strategy that will boost the region’s economy, conserve its coastal resources, and improve the entire area’s resilience to sea-level rise.”

The study is part of the work of the Waterways Infrastructure and Investment Network—an offshoot of the Delaware Resilient And Sustainable Communities League (RASCL) with grant funding to create a natural resource evaluation and management plan for the Mispillion and Cedar Creek watersheds.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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