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“For Future Generations of Delawareans”: What the Heck Does that Even Mean?

Written on: December 19th, 2022 in Outreach

By Melanie Cucunato, DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation

Did you know that Delaware is home to 34 Nature Preserves?! …What even is a Nature Preserve you ask? First off, ouch. Second off, allow me to attempt to give you the cliff notes version of the History of Natural Areas and Nature Preserves in Delaware. Ahem.

In 1977, the Delaware Nature Society published the book Delaware’s Outstanding Natural Areas and their Preservation written by Lorraine Fleming. This book outlined 101 sites throughout the state that have extraordinary examples of ecological, historical, geologic, and/or cultural significance. Following the hype the book received, the Delaware General Assembly passed Delaware Code, Chapter 73: Natural Areas Preservation System in 1978. This allowed for four key things:

  1. The establishment of the Governor-appointed Natural Areas Advisory Council which advises the DNREC Secretary on which lands throughout the state should be added to the Natural Areas Inventory and/or be further dedicated as Nature Preserve,
  2. The establishment of the Office of Nature Preserves (that’s me!) within the Division of Parks and Recreation,
  3. The establishment of the Natural Areas Inventory. A Natural Area is an area of land, whether in public or private ownership, that need not be disturbed, that displays outstanding ecological, cultural, historical, and/or geologic value to the state*. The book comes in handy here as our State’s Natural Areas are based off the 101 sites identified by the Delaware Nature Society,
  4. The establishment of a way for landowners to voluntarily dedicate lands within the boundaries of Natural Areas as a Nature Preserve “for the benefit of current and future generations of Delawareans”, thus placing deed restrictions on the land that are in perpetuity**
*Natural Areas are non-regulatory at the State level. They are simply an identification tool. It is at the discretion of County and Municipality government to establish local ordinances to regulate these lands if they chose to do so.

**Nature Preserves are regulated at the State level. Any violation of the deed restrictions placed on the property can be met with legal action.

Since then, the Natural Areas Advisory Council and the Division of Parks and Recreation have worked together to protect over 7,000 acres of land, establishing 34 total Nature Preserves throughout the State that may or may not have public access. Phew, that was a lot. Did you get all that? Because there will be a pop quiz later….

But there was that phrase… “for future generations of Delawareans”. What does that even mean? Being from the generation between Millennials and Gen Z, I can’t even fathom what generations after Gen Z are going to look like, sound like, or what trends they will start that I will undoubtedly try to adopt as well in a sad effort to “stay hip and young”. I am sure that the people making decisions on which lands to protect back in the 80’s never possibly could have imagined the land they were protecting would one day have a 13-year-old filming a TikTok dance on one of the trails next to the then 150-year-old tulip poplar trees. But they still did it, and they did it for us “future generations” to enjoy however we wanted to.

I was curious recently about which Nature Preserve was the first and when it was dedicated. I found the Tulip Tree Woods and Freshwater Marsh Nature Preserves (both located within Brandywine Creek State Park) … and – get this – they were dedicated in 1982! I remember looking at those documents for a moment and realizing that it was their 40th Anniversary this year! How lucky is that? I immediately went into gear planning their birthday party.

Brandywine Creek State Park Tulip Poplar trees (Photo Credit: DNREC Division of Parks and Recreation)

On November 4th, 2022, the Brandywine Creek State Park staff, Delaware Nature Society staff, Managers of the Tree for Every Delawarean Initiative (TEDI) staff, and the past employees of the Division of Parks and Recreation who made all of this happen came together to celebrate the birthday of the Tulip Tree Woods and Freshwater Marsh Nature Preserves. The event included some joyful and appreciative speeches from Charles “Chazz” Salkin, the first Nature Preserves Manager, later Land Preservation Office Chief, and even later Director of the Division of Parks and Recreation, and Lorraine Fleming herself. Following the speeches, we planted 260 trees adjacent to the Nature Preserve to establish a new era of forest for “future generations”. This planting was funded by TEDI, Governor Carney’s plan to combat climate change by planting trees throughout the state for carbon sequestration. After a long morning of planting trees, our guests convened for lunch and shared the famous “Bobbie” from Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop. After lunch, the Brandywine Creek State Park Interpretive staff hosted a guided walk through the Tulip Tree Woods Nature Preserve to awe at the now 200-year-old poplar trees. The day was truly magical.

And so, dear reader, the point of this article is this: making conservation and preservation decisions today for “future generations of Delawareans” is a weird and abstract concept that I don’t think anyone can truly grasp. I mean, how did those key people in the 80’s truly know that their decision to protect an old growth forest like the Tulip Tree Woods Nature Preserve would result in a New Jersey native woman, who happened to land her dream job at DNREC as the Natural Areas and Nature Preserves Program Manager, becoming completely enamored with this State’s Preserves and throw them a birthday party 40 years later? Let alone, be handed to torch to continue to protect land for future generation.

Nature Preserve Managers

With that, I wanted to say: if you are reading this and you have contributed to the preservation and protection of the State of Delaware’s outstanding piedmont, marshes, freshwater wetlands, coastal dunes, etc.: Thank You. I can only hope that I do half as good of a job as you all have these past 40-50 years and pass that on to my own next generation.

Thank you for your attention and Happy Holidays! Enjoy your time off visiting one of our 34 Nature Preserves (that has public access) throughout the State!

Mel, hugging a tree.

If you would like to know more about the Natural Areas and Nature Preserves throughout Delaware or just want to chat about what preservation work you have accomplished, please do not hesitate to reach out to me via e-mail at or via phone at (302) 739-9039.

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