State switches away from Fresh Pond entrance

Yes, the main entrance to Fresh Pond State Park, just north of Fred Hudson Road on Route 1(and that parking lot) is closed — and yes, the park is still open.

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s (DNREC’s) Steve Schilly, park operations administrator, reported the recent opening of a new parking lot — at Fresh Pond’s west entrance.

DNREC would be putting up directional signs shortly, he said, directing nature lovers along Cedar Neck Road to the entrance at the end of Hickman Road (turn at Magnolia’s Seafood Bar & Grill).

Schilly said the Route 1 entrance and parking lot would likely be closed for a year — or longer — if the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) finds the park a suitable location for wetland remediation.

Wetlands impacts necessarily accompany the nearby Indian River Inlet bridge project, and DelDOT will likely mitigate those impacts at the Fresh Pond, according to Schilly.

“The Fresh Pond has been manipulated by man in the past — there are a lot of small borrow pits around the park,” Schilly pointed out. “We’d like to make it safer for the public, maybe make some adjustments to some of the wetlands areas that aren’t of the best quality.”

Toward that end, he anticipated DelDOT heavy equipment traffic along the road from the entrance on Route 1, and the department has already trenched some test pits just beyond (what was) the main parking lot.

Presently, Schilly said DelDOT was using the test pits to check out soil conditions — if they’re favorable, the department may be able to use some of the cleared-away material in bridge causeway construction.

Pending favorable results, he expected the inlet bridge project would benefit Fresh Pond considerably. “We’d like to restore it as much as possible. It’s really a unique resource — we don’t have a lot of open space like this, so close to the beach,” he said. “This area could be cleaned up as part of this particular DelDOT project, and in the long run, we’re going to get a better facility.”

In the meantime, he said moving the entrance to the west side had been a good fit with the kind of recreational activities most popular at Fresh Pond. “The core people enjoy the fishing, but there’s a lot of passive use, too,” he said. “A lot of people come to hike, bike or go horseback riding, and that entrance will serve well for those uses.”

Schilly said it should be easier to get horse trailers into the Hickman Road lot, as compared to pulling off Route 1 — he recognized local legislative support, and support from the equestrian community, for making the new parking lot possible.

The new entrance to the Fresh Pond will be a self-registration area, with envelopes for daily use fees (as was the main entrance from Route 1).