Reclaim the Nanticoke River

By Lynn R. Parks

On a recent warm day, organizers of the Reclaim Our River series of events set for this year in Seaford met at the Blades Marina on the Nanticoke River. While Jason Beale, manager of the Abbotts Mill Nature Center near Milford, part of the Delaware Nature Society, and Seaford resident Nan Zamorski sat at a picnic table in an outdoor pavilion and discussed their plans, an osprey circled overhead.

It was the first osprey either had seen this spring. As Beale explained that osprey leave here in the fall to winter in South America, the bird suddenly plunged from the sky to the surface of the Nanticoke, and then flew back up, carrying a fish in its talons.

It was the perfect expression of the value of protecting the Nanticoke and the life that depends on it. That, said Beale, is the focus of Reclaim Our River.

We want to get people to realize that the Nanticoke is something that belongs to all of us, and that everybody has a role in protecting it, he said. We all can help to improve water quality. And if everybody participates just a little bit, the cumulative effect can be profound.

The series is also promoting the Nanticoke watershed as a good place to live and work, Beale said. If people want to go canoeing, they can head east and deal with all the beach traffic, he said. Or they can come to Seaford, and while theyre here visit the art gallery and the museum downtown and stop in a restaurant. Making this a more attractive place for people to live and visit ultimately benefits the economy.

The series started a couple weeks ago, with a presentation at Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church in downtown Seaford about the value of creating living shorelines, or vegetated shorelines that provide habitat for young fish. About 30 people attended the workshop, three times what organizers expected.

It was a very good event, very interactive, Zamorski said.

The next event will be Thursday, March 27, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Mt. Olivet. Volunteers from the Delaware Nature Society will demonstrate how to create a habitat that is attractive to wildlife. In addition to benefiting water quality, Beale said, such a habitat can enhance property values. And it can mean less mowing, which means more free time, he added. Participation in the workshop is free, but pre-registration is suggested.

On April 12, organizers will present a workshop on how to make a rain barrel. The event will be from 10 a.m. to noon, again at Mt. Olivet.

On May 4, Reclaim Our River will take part in the Nanticoke River Park Festival at the marina.

Phillips Landing, west of Bethel, will be the site of the fifth event, an eco kayak and canoe paddle presented in conjunction with the National Parks Conservation Association and the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance. We want to get people out on the river, then educate them about water quality and give them the tools to act, Beale said. Kayaks, canoes and paddles will be provided.

On July 12, Reclaim Our River will have a booth set up at Riverfest in downtown Seaford. And on Aug. 9, the marina will be the site for 200-yard races of boats made from recycled cardboard. Individuals and teams are welcome to design and build their own boats; already, three area marinas, Short, Sturgis and Walker, have said that they will compete.

We hope that the day is totally wacky and a fun way to get people out on the river, Zamorski said. The more people who enjoy the river, the more people are going to want to protect it.

The series will end Sept. 20, with a 5K walk and run at Chapel Branch Nature Preserve west of Seaford. The preserve, owned by the Nanticoke River Watershed Conservancy, is a beautiful place, Beale said, nature at its best.

This will be the third annual Race for Our River in Delaware. The first two were held along the Appoquinimink River in Blackbird State Park. Refreshments will be provided by Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton.

Zamorski and Beale said that they hope that the Reclaim Your River series continues in some form after this year, and that it encourages a corps of people working to improve the Nanticoke watershed.

There are a lot of people who are concerned about the Nanticoke and the quality of its water, but who feel that they cant do anything about it, Beale said. We want to convince people that they can make a difference. When people feel that way, its empowering.

For your information Reclaim Our River, sponsored by Delaware Watersheds, a joint effort of the state and the University of Delawares Water Resources Agency, is an effort to draw attention to the Nanticoke River and to citizens ability to improve its quality. For addition details or to register for any of the events, visit the website or call 382-0335.

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