The 109-acre Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve was donated in 1989 to DNS by the Marvel family of Milford, Del., and DNS’s Abbott’s Mill Nature Center, also located in Milford, has been conducting environmental education programs for students and families at the site ever since.
The new Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve sign, installed by Rogers Sign Co., in Milton, Del., and made possible through the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s Beer & Benevolence program, recognizes the Marvel family’s commitment to conservation while furthering DNS’s mission of connecting people to the natural world to improve our environment through education, advocacy, and conservation.
“This was an opportunity for us to honor the gift of the Marvel family with a sign, ” said Matt Babbitt, manager of Abbott’s Mill Nature Center.
Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve is an example of the large expanses of saltmarshes that form much of Delaware’s eastern bayshore, according to Babbitt, who noted that the preserve provides wildlife habitats for migratory songbirds, fish and crabs. The marsh itself also helps provide flood control for the Town of Slaughter Beach, Babbitt said.
Babbitt said that in the spring of 2015, Abbott’s staff and Slaughter Beach community members erected an osprey nesting platform in the southern end of the preserve. Babbitt said the platform hosted a pair of nesting osprey throughout last summer, and late last month those osprey returned to the site.
Babbitt also pointed out that DNS conducts environmental education programs for children and adults alike at Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve. The programs stress the important role that the marsh plays in the Delaware Bay ecosystem and in the lives of people that live around it.
Additionally, Abbott’s has hosted an annual Horseshoe Crab Spawning & Population Volunteer Survey at Slaughter Beach since 1999, providing the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Fish & Wildlife data used to monitor the species’ health as well as to set harvest limits for Whelk fishermen and the scientific community who use the crab’s blood to test the sterility of medical equipment and prescription medications.
Babbitt also noted that in February of 2016, the Town of Slaughter Beach, in partnership with DNS, was awarded a Lands & Waters Conservation Trust Fund Grant, through DNREC, for the design of a boardwalk to be built at the Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve for educational programs and public access.
According to Babbitt, the project to plan, design, and build a boardwalk and elevated observation area at Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve seeks maximize access to the marshlands and tidal pools located in the preserve, and greatly expand educational activities for students and families visiting the town to study wildlife habitat and ecosystems.
Landscape Architectural Services, L.L.C., located in Milford, Del., is overseeing the permitting and design phase for this project, and additional design funding has been provided by DNREC’s Bayshore Initiative, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s Beer and Benevolence program, and DNS.
The town and DNS will seek additional funding for the construction phase of the boardwalk project, Babbitt said.
Babbitt said that on May 20 and 21, DNS will be celebrating the 35th anniversary of Abbott’s Mill Nature Center, which represents a partnership between DNS and Delaware’s Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and Division of Fish & Wildlife.
Since 1981, Abbott’s has provided hands-on educational programs for Delmarva area students and families, while also preserving 482 acres of wildlife habitat and public hiking trails in Sussex County. The nature center’s namesake, Abbott’s Mill, is Delaware’s only preserved, working gristmill, and allows visitors to discover over 220 years of history and engineering.
Abbott’s Mill Nature Center is located at 15411 Abbotts Pond Road, Milford, DE, and can be reached by phone at (302) 422-0847 or online at www.delnature.org/abbotts.