Environmental Advocacy

By Brenna Goggin: Environmental Advocate

Monday, August 8th started out like every other day. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and summer campers were arriving to tackle all of the state’s environmental issues, or at least try. The first day campers learned how the legislative process works, listened to School House Rock (“I’m just a bill…), and debated their first piece of legislation.

Day two started out with a long drive down to Lewes to learn about wind energy and tour the University of Delaware’s 2-megawatt wind turbine. Did you know that this wind turbine produces enough power to meet all of UD’s Lewes campus energy needs and powers about 120 homes in the area?  Since some of our campers received letters from their constituents (they were elected officials after all!), they had several questions regarding the dangers wind turbines pose  to birds and bats, the cleanliness of wind energy, and how it compares to other energy sources like fossil fuels. Graduate student Blaise Sheridan walked the campers right up to the turbine to explain how the energy travels from the turbine to the power station. Blaise and Chris Petrone also took us through a kite exercise to show how the wind currents are stronger and therefore can produce more energy the higher up they are.

Conservation Action Force campers walk towards the University of Delaware Wind Turbine near Lewes.

Day three and four were spent learning about climate change, the food cycle, and sustainable agricultural products. The campers went through several hands-on activities to learn about the greenhouse effect, the importance of even small creatures in the circle of life, and how to build your own sustainable, eco-friendly farm. Ideas ranged from raising yaks to dinosaurs, but the main task of the day was to control the waste, runoff, and other environmental side effects of farming in a safe and economical way.

Finally, we traveled to the Delaware state capitol to bring our issues to the attention of people with power! Campers toured Legislative Hall, met with Senator Bushweller to discuss some of their environmental concerns, and learned the history of the first state. In the afternoon, the camp made a presentation to Deputy DNREC Secretary Dave Small where their issues and concerns were voiced. 

The grand finale of the camp was to take action for the environment and speak to legislators at the Delaware State Capital.

In the end, the Conservation Action Force campers learned current environmental issues through hands-on activities, and gained experience with effectively voicing their concerns.  In this way, environmental education comes full circle.

If you have a conservationist in the making at home, consider this camp in 2012!

By Brenna Goggin, Environmental Advocate

In 1991, President George H.W Bush designated National Park Week which is being celebrated April 17th-23rdthis year. Thanks to the recent addition of President Clinton’s Birthplace in Hope, Arkansas, there are now 394 units, making up over 80 million acres in the National Park system. Every state and territory in the United States, including American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands all have National Parks, except Delaware. As the first state to sign the Constitution, Senator Carper has been working since 2003 to establish a Delaware National Park. The question has always been where? The process for establishing a National Park is arduous and areas of interest have to meet very stringent requirements. Many states, including Delaware, have beautiful state parks and preserves, that while may be suitable for a National Park, are already well cared for by other agencies. In 2007, President Bush signed legislation authorizing the NPS to conduct a Special Resource Study (SRS) to determine whether the creation of a NPS unit in Delaware is appropriate.

Blog contributor Joe Sebastiani (left) looks for poisonous snakes with his dad and brother in Saguaro National Park, AZ. Sebastiani photo archives.

From the beginning of our nation’s history, Delaware has played an important role. European settlers built fortifications such as Fort Christina, established in Wilmington in 1638 by settlers to protect Swedish and Finnish settlements and Fort Zwaanendael to protect the Dutch in Lewes. Additionally, we were the first state to sign the Constitution. On November 24, 2008, the NPS released a study of its SRS finding that a park in Delaware should focus on our early settlements and our lead in the “birth of a nation.” The SRS concluded that a National Historical Park would be the most appropriate kind of park in Delaware.

The Delaware Nature Society trip to the Great Smoky Mountains in 2004 was one of over 25 trips we've led to this beautiful National Park. From the left are Karen Travers, former DNS Members Program Coordinator, Bill Haldeman, former Manager of the Flint Woods Preserve, and Nancy Frederick, DNS Board Member. Photo by Joe Sebastiani.

Through conversations with land owners, non-profits, and government agencies, the National Park Service made a final recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior outlining the scope of the park. In 2011, Senator Carper and Congressman Carney released legislation in both the Senate and the House respectfully. S. 323 and H.R. 624 outline what will be included in the National Park and gives the NPS the authority to establish a park in Delaware without a monetary appropriation. Included in the proposed National Historical Site is:

New Castle County-

      The Old Sheriff’s House

      Fort Christina National Historic Landmark

      Old Swedes Church National Historic Landmark

      Old New Castle Courthouse

Kent County-

      John Dickinson Plantation National Historic Landmark

      Dover Green

Sussex County-

      Ryves Holt House

The Delaware Nature Society encourages you to enjoy anyone of the over 25 National Park sites in our area including Independence Hall, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the National Mall, or the C&O Canal. For more information, please visit www.nps.gov.