More popular than ever, Delaware State Parks get federal funding for new amenities

Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes

The campground at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes. (Courtesy of Delaware State Parks)

Delaware State Parks, which have been filled with a growing number of visitors in the past few years, is getting $3.2 million through the American Rescue Plan to upgrade some facilities. The goal of the grant is to increase the number of attractions in the popular state parks, drawing even more tourists to the state.

A record-breaking 8 million people visited state parks in 2021, exceeding previous attendance numbers. State officials say this year’s numbers are on track to top that total.

Since 2011, reservations and occupancy for camping nights in the parks have grown 124%. In 2011, 67,000 nights were reserved, while last year, total reservations approached 150,000.

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There are about 826 campsites and 47 cottages spread out across the state of Delaware. With grant money from ARP, officials said they hope to bring improvements to the park including:

  • Additional cottages.
  • Full hook-up sites.
  • Six accessible docks and kayak canoe launches.
  • A new boat rental facility with multiple family restrooms.
  • Storage for boats and safety equipment.
  • 10 new full-serviced cabins.
  • New primitive camping areas.
  • A splash park.

The Delaware Seashore, Cape Henlopen, Lums Pond, Killens Pond, and Trap Pond are the five state parks that will benefit from the injection of federal money.

“The First State may be small, but the appeal of our parks is far from it,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. He said the money will “create jobs, boost our economy, and help ensure that park visitors can come enjoy Delaware and make lifelong memories here.”

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The Delaware Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) had begun planning for the redevelopment of state parks that would improve campgrounds in the future. The division published a strategy plan in 2021 that serves as a framework and a goal for the period from 2021 to 2026.

“Delaware’s state park system is a vital contributor to our state’s $3 billion tourism economy,” Carper said.

Park officials say Delaware households would have to pay an additional $150 in state and local taxes each year if it weren’t for the ARP’s additional assistance and the Division of Park and Recreation’s annual revenue.

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