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February 2017

Love the beach; save the beach

When my family moved to Delmarva last year, I was lost. We had been to Rehoboth Beach twice in the nearly two decades we lived outside of Baltimore. I knew absolutely nothing about the peninsula.

As a former journalist, I did what any reporter would do in a strange area. I found the local newspaper and asked if I could start writing for them. One of the first stories I wrote was about the beach grass planting that DNREC organizes each year. I tried to convince my daughter to come with me, but she wasn’t interested in what she said was “watching grass grow.”

Off I drove by myself down Coastal Highway to Delaware Seashore State Park. It is the stretch of beach before you cross the bridge into Bethany Beach. It is unspoiled. No houses. No shops. No boardwalk. Just you and the beach.

When I arrived, it was cold and windy. Volunteers, of which there were many, were already planting beach grass. All of the volunteers were friendly and represented a wide cross-section of people. A pro-legalize marijuana group was planting the beach grass along with members of the Jeep Club and a few random families. The volunteers were all very different, but they all came together because they love the beach.

It is easy to see why. It is rugged and hasn’t been commercialized. It is almost like being on a private beach. For those who like to fish, they can drive their cars and trucks onto the beach attach their fishing poles to the front and bring a cooler. That is right, you can tailgate at the beach. That is pretty cool. You do need to get a permit first though.

But, back to the beach grass.

The beach grass is planted to protect the beach from disappearing. The grass traps the sand in the dunes when storms hit and the wind blows the sand. The beach grass acts as a natural barrier against erosion.

The beach planting efforts start on the northern shores of the bay and end at the southern most point of Delaware, Fenwick Island.

By the time I registered my family this year all of the spots at the northern beaches were taken. Fenwick Island was all that was left. That was fine. My kids have never met a beach they didn’t like.

For families who want to teach their kids about the environment and giving back to their communities, Delmarva offers plenty of opportunities to do both. Beach grass planting is just one of those opportunities. The annual beach grass planting takes place in March. But, the state also offers other opportunities for those who want to volunteer at the state parks throughout the year.

I think this is a great way to teach my kids about giving back to their community. It also is teaching them about the environment and science.

If you are interested, Delaware offers plenty of opportunities to give back and be good stewards of nature. For those who are interested in a purposeful vacation involving nature, DNREC offers a variety of opportunities for people to volunteer. Check out DNREC’s website by clicking here.




Love and Rockets on Wallops Island

One of the neat things about living on Delmarva is all of the stars you can see clearly because the night sky isn’t flooded with lights from all of the houses and businesses nearby.

At its core, Delmarva is pretty rural. When NASA launched its Antares rocket from Wallops Island this fall, my husband and I gathered our kids and headed out to the front lawn to watch the rocket take off. We stood outside with our iPad and listened to a live feed of Wallops Flight Facility, 70 miles down the road. The kids jumped up and down as they saw the tail of fire streak across the black sky as the rocket headed toward the international space station.

The kiddos love science. They love space. We live 70 miles from Wallops Island. We had to go to NASA.

On a teacher workday, the kids and I checked NASA’s website and made sure that Wallops Island visitors center was open that day. It was, so we loaded up the car with snacks and headed down to check out NASA. Wallops Island is about an hour’s drive away from Rehoboth Beach. It is a pretty drive. It was the middle of winter. So we did not have to fight any traffic or crowds.

We pretty much had the entire center to ourselves. The facility itself is very unassuming. You could easily drive past it and think nothing of it. It is a little brick building with a LED sign and a rocket out in front.

Across the street, though, it is pretty hard to miss the many satellite dishes. Of course, that is off limits. The big white dishes reminded me of the movie “Contact,” but I digress.

We headed inside the visitor’s center, which is free. When you have three kids, free is good.

Inside, the kids learned about the earth’s climate. They got to see a moon rock. They had their photo taken in an airman’s suit and an astronaut’s suit. We also headed to the roof of the visitors’ center, where you have great views of  Chincoteague Island, some more rockets, and the satellite dishes across the street.

The center also offers an area where kids big and small can launch their own rocket using air. The kiddos had a rocket launching race. It was fun.

The center also allows kids to build their own rockets using magnet tiles.

It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to experience the center, depending on your level of interest. We stayed a little longer because we are nerds, and we geek out on science. It’s NASA. Who doesn’t think NASA is pretty freakin’ cool?

This is a great stop if you are heading to Chincoteague Island. If you really love science and space, check out NASA’s website periodically because Wallops Island does launch rockets from its home on the Eastern Shore.

For more information about NASA’s Wallops Island facility, click here.