The Delaware Bayshore Initiative

Extending from Pea Patch Island in New Castle County to the City of Lewes in Sussex County, the Delaware Bay shoreline is widely recognized as an area of global ecological significance.

Its expansive coastal marshes, shoreline, agricultural lands and forests provide diverse habitat to many species, including migratory shorebirds. Birders and biologists from around the world come to central Delaware to witness the annual spring spectacle of more than a half million shorebirds taking a rest stop to dine on eggs laid by spawning horseshoe crabs.

Enhancing the state’s natural resources for world-class conservation and boosting the economy through recreational activities

Map of the Delaware Bayshore

A Collaborative Approach

The Delaware Bayshore Initiative will collaboratively build on the region’s reputation as a unique and beautiful natural resource, and help improve the shoreline economy by encouraging more Delawareans and visitors to enjoy it through activities such as recreational fishing, hunting, boating and ecotourism.

This non-regulatory approach will continue the tradition of DNREC’s commitment to preserving the state’s coastal zone, which has been protected by Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act since 1971. Due in large part to the legacy of that landmark legislation, more than half of the Delaware Bayshore’s acreage remains undeveloped, and is today protected as state or federal wildlife lands.

By building on public-private partnerships and leveraging state, federal and private resources, the Bayshore Initiative targets three major areas for improvement:

Land Conservation

  • Protect and connect habitats that support a rich diversity of plants and animals, enhance water quality, and reduce flooding impacts on local communities.
  • Support the preservation of private farmlands and the use of conservation best practices.
  • Expand habitat restoration efforts that increase resiliency to coastal storms and adapt habitats to sea level rise.

Recreation and Education

  • Enhance public access to lands and waters for outdoor recreation pursuits compatible with habitat conservation goals.
  • Improve amenities to encourage participation in hunting, fishing, birding, photography, hiking, biking, boating, kayaking and canoeing.
  • Increase interpretive signs and other outreach information to raise awareness about wildlife, habitats, farming practices, and cultural and maritime history.

Community Engagement

  • Invest in historic Bayshore communities by collaborating on projects that enhance visitor experiences and support tourism along the Delaware Bayshore Byway.
  • Encourage private-enterprise investments that support local visitation and foster regional and international ecotourism.
  • Support local participation in volunteerism to assist with resource stewardship and raising awareness about the connection between community sustainability and habitat conservation.

Improving Recreational Access

In addition to economic benefits, the Delaware Bayshore Initiative stands to improve quality of life through enhanced outdoor recreational opportunities; to provide students with outdoor living classroom educational options; and to help prepare Delaware for future climate changes and impacts. It was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior as one of the country’s most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world.