DNREC adds 597 of protected acreage to its Open Space Program
Created by the Delaware Land Protection Act, the Open Space Program has set aside nearly 45,000 acres since it was established in 1990.
Delaware’s Open Space Program coordinates Protected Acreage among four state agencies: DNREC’s Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and the Department of State Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.
Open Space Program spokesperson Keri Batrowny explains the significance of Protected Acreage. “We all have land holdings and we work to acquire land to expand our land holdings - our state parks, our wildlife areas, our cultural resources, our state forests. So when we’re talking about Protected Acreage through the Open Space Program, we’re talking about those lands that are protected through those four agencies.”
The new acreage has accumulated since 2022, and is spread across 17 sites around the state. Of the 597 new acres, Parks and Recreation added seven new properties across 254 acres, and Fish and Wildlife added six new properties across 343 acres. The two largest acquisitions will improve public access to Blackiston Wildlife Area in northwestern Kent County and expand the Tony Florio Woodland Beach Wildlife Area near Smyrna. Other Fish and Wildlife lands to benefit include Tappahanna Wildlife Area, the Eagles Nest Wildlife Area and Assawoman Bay Wildlife Area. The smallest purchase was one acre securing access on the north side of Garrisons Lake near Smyrna.
The James Branch Nature Preserve, Trap Pond State Park, Brandywine Creek State Park, and Killens Pond State Park. Fork Branch Nature Preserve in Dover will benefit from two acquisitions, one of which will be owned by the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware. A conservation easement on the 11 acres in Kent County was donated in June 2022 by The Conservation Fund. The easement protects land adjacent to Delaware State Parks’ Fork Branch Nature Preserve. The Lenape have been stewarding the lands including the removal of invasive species.
In addition to the recreational access Protected Acreage provides, Batrowny sees the additional benefit that “the lands protected are protecting habitat that’s important for various species to thrive in, as well as protecting important wetlands that can ultimately better our water quality.”
Batrowny notes that the Open Space Program leverages the state’s annual funding for additional support “to purchase state land, again via feasible acquisition or conservation easements, and we use those state funds to leverage with partner funds - from nonprofits, federal grants - they provide more funding and make our funding go further.”
DNREC manages 17 state parks, 20 wildlife areas and dozens of public recreation access areas including trails, overlooks, boardwalks, fishing piers and boat ramps.
More information on the Open Space Program is available at de.gov/openspace.