Carper, DNREC, EDA Announce $3.2 Million Grant for State Parks

LEWES, Del. — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, joined Delaware Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Shawn M. Garvin and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Regional Director Linda Cruz Carnall to announce $3.2 million from the EDA to DNREC’s Division of State Parks.

This project will support campground improvements at Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore, Killens Pond, Lums Pond, and Trap Pond State Parks, bringing new visitors to Delaware, its businesses, and local attractions. This project is funded under EDA’s $240 million competitive American Rescue Plan Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation program, and will be matched with $803,100 in local funds.

“Delaware is proud to have the nation’s best state parks. With this investment, they will just keep getting better,” said Governor John Carney. “This American Rescue Plan grant will help DNREC provide needed and sought-after enhancements to Delaware’s five state park campgrounds. I want to thank the U.S. Economic Development Administration for this investment, the Biden Administration and our Federal Delegation for their continued support of our nationally recognized state parks.”

“Delaware’s state park system is a vital contributor to our state’s $3 billion tourism economy,” said Senator Carper. “The First State may be small, but the appeal of our parks is far from it: Delaware’s parks attract almost six million guests a year! I’m delighted to welcome this investment from the Economic Development Administration that will create jobs, boost our economy, and help ensure that park visitors can come enjoy Delaware and make lifelong memories here.”

“Delawareans should be proud of our incredible state park system, a source of tourism and jobs for communities across the First State,” said Senator Coons. “Thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, and my colleagues Senator Carper and Representative Blunt Rochester, this grant will help ensure that future generations are able to enjoy the natural wonder of Delaware for years to come and that local economies and businesses across the state will thrive.”

“Delaware’s State Parks are a vital component of both Delaware’s vibrant tourism sector and local economy,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “With these federal dollars, the First State will be able to make investments to its beautiful State Parks so that Delawareans and travelers from across the country can continue to enjoy them today and for years to come. I’m glad to have worked alongside Senator Carper and Senator Coons to secure this critical funding for Delaware, and I look forward to seeing these enhancements come to fruition.”

After breaking attendance records in 2021, Delaware State Parks is on pace to set another visitor attendance mark by the end of 2022. Visitation to Delaware State Parks has been increasing for years, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2011, camping nights reserved within Delaware’s state parks have increased by 124 percent. In 2011, the parks saw 67,000 nights booked and, 10 years later, that number grew to more than 150,000 nights in 2021.

There are currently 826 campsites and 47 cabins/cottages or yurts at Delaware State Parks’ campgrounds. In 2021, campers at these state parks came from 49 states. Post-camping surveys show visitors to our state parks want to see upgrades to bathrooms and showers, RV hookups, improved campground stores and retail offerings, connectivity, larger campsites, and additional camping opportunities.

In 2021, the division released its Strategic Plan as a framework and goal through 2026. While creating this plan, the division conducted a thorough evaluation of its five campgrounds to incorporate best practices and industry standards in planning for future expansion and improved campground amenities.

The $3.2 million EDA grant will fund planning through the construction design, and help the Division of Parks and Recreation to fulfill several campground plans and needs at its five state park campgrounds, including:

  • Cape Henlopen: Campground expansion with additional sites, amenities and new full-service cabins in the youth primitive area near Herring Point.
  • Delaware Seashore State Park: Six cottages to be added to the existing 12, with an additional dozen or so cottages on the south side campground.
  • Lums Pond: Campground expansion with 30 new pull-through, full hook-up sites plus a new bathhouse facility to accommodate the expansion.
  • Killens Pond: Six accessible docks and kayak/canoe launches, a new dump station at the campground and a new camp store closer to the existing campground.
  • Trap Pond: Six accessible docks and kayak/canoe launches, a new boat rental facility with multiple family restrooms, service windows, storage for boats and safety equipment, 10 new full-service cabins and a new primitive camping area, and a splash park.

Sixty-five percent of the Division of Parks and Recreation’s annual revenue is user-generated. A recent economic impact study showed that for every dollar spent by out-of-state visitors in Delaware State Parks, 92 cents is returned to the Delaware economy. For every General Fund operating dollar invested in Delaware State Parks, $40.02 in economic activity is added to the state. If not for Delaware’s state parks, each household in Delaware would need to contribute $150 extra in state and local taxes.