- Associated Press - Saturday, May 6, 2017

LEWES, Del. (AP) - The state’s Delaware Bayshore Initiative, a program to showcase, promote and protect the ecologically significant area along the Delaware Bay, is expanding and will now extend from Lewes, at the entrance to Delaware Bay, to Old New Castle.

The move was marked by the unveiling of a new Aquatic Resource Education Center near the midpoint of the Bayshore region just north of Woodland Beach. The center, built with $822,000 from a state Bond Bill appropriation and another $118,000 from the Federal Highway Administration Scenic Byway Grant, is the first of several planned waypoints to guide visitors and residents along the route, which roughly follows Del. 9 from New Castle to just south of Dover Air Force Base and then picks up with the fishing communities and resort towns along the Delaware Bay.

Gov. John Carney said the new center does three things: it’s a hands-on facility where schoolchildren and teachers can learn about the habitat and ecological significance of the bayshore; it’s a key destination for people who want to explore the area and it provides a new interpretive area.

“Delaware’s Bayshore Region is a unique destination for ecotourism and outdoor recreation, strengthening the economy and attracting Delawareans and visitors alike to experience the wilder side of our state’s natural beauty,” he said.

State Environmental Secretary Shawn Garvin said the expanded bayshore region is now 100 miles.

Even when it was smaller - from Woodland Beach to Kitts Hummock - there were concerns that visitors wouldn’t know how to navigate the area. There were no way markers, few interpretive signs, no restroom facilities, few places to eat and no guide services or outfitters to help visitors figure out what they were seeing or help them explore.

The center is “a major highlight of the Bayshore Byway,” Garvin said.

Serious birders already know the area because it is one of the key, springtime staging areas in the annual shorebird migration. In addition, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is a major fall and winter stopover for migratory waterfowl. In the spring, the densely wooded corridor provides a migration route for songbirds.

“It’s one of the most stunning wetland ecosystems in the world,” said Mike Slattery, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Besides the new center, state officials have received other grant money to build pull-offs and parking areas along the byway.

Mary Ridgeway, Delaware division administrator for the Federal Highway Administration, said her agency has provided $840,000 in federal seed money to kickstart the scenic byway drive. The key factor, she said, is making shore people are safe when they pull off to look at the features along the way.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides additional money to help staff and keep the new center open.

It is, said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. ,”some of Delaware’s most beautiful scenery.”

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Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., https://www.delawareonline.com

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