New aquatic education center, Bayshore Byway extension aim to get Delawareans outside
State officials showed off a new aquatic center Monday that they hope will get kids and families more excited about the outdoors.
The new Aquatic Resources Education Center in Smyrna is designed as a hands-on facility with indoor classrooms for field trips. It also has an outdoor trail with kiosks for visitors to learn about environmental history in the First State.
Chief Dennis Coker from the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware said he’s supported the project for a while. The tribe has a youth summer camp and has brought children to the old facility for the last seven to eight years.
“We would spend the whole week here with the youth of our tribe introducing them to the environment, the marsh, the aquatic opportunities that existed out here, so we had a good time,” Coker said.
Coker said he was happy to see the new facility - “indicative of a renewed effort.”
The center’s coordinator Gary Kramer said the updated center and new trail just outside is all about connecting Delawareans to nature.
“I feel like we’re in danger of losing in the busy pace of our lives and all the gadgets and technology we’re all kind of involved in that we need to take time to be out here in this kind of place,” Kramer said.
The AREC used to be inside of an old, converted farmhouse. DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin said more than 50,000 fifth graders visited the center over the last 20 years.
“That was kind of retrofitted to provide those services,” Garvin said. “This was actually built with the focus on education and providing a place for folks to meet and learn.”
The new center cost $940,000, paid for by a mix of state and federal funds. The money for the project was allocated in 2013.
DNREC also announced the nearby Bayshore Byway has been extended. A portion from Kitts Hummock, south of Dover, to Lewes is now included - connecting the Bayshore Byway to the Historic Lewes Byway.
“There’s been a lot of investment put into - by a whole lot of stakeholders - to really provide opportunities to get our citizens, and citizens from Pennsylvania and Maryland and other places connected to the outside environment,” Garvin said. “So this byway is part of that larger collection of resources.”
The new education center and Bayshore Byway extension are part of the Delaware Bayshore Initiative, which aims to strengthen local communities and promote recreation in the region.