DELAWARE WATER GAP NATIONAL RECREATION AREA – National Park Service (NPS) Director Chuck Sams visited Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in New Jersey and Pennsylvania Friday as part of a cross country tour during National Park Week.
Sams visited the park as the staff is gearing up for a busy summer season, finalizing a significant wetland restoration project and tackling road repairs on the busiest route in the park. Today’s Earth Day visit coincides with National Park Week’s sPark Action day, when we are highlighting how our actions impact the health of the environment.
Sams began his tour of the 70,000-acre national recreation area with a drive along the historic Old Mine Road while enroute to the Watergate Wetland Restoration Project on the New Jersey side of the park. This $10 million project will restore 20 acres of wetlands and nearly a half-mile of stream, as well as 60 acres of native plants surrounding the wetlands and stream. The project is scheduled to be completed late this year. By restoring natural conditions, the ecology of the entire area will be improved, including re-establishing native vegetation, improving the coldwater trout fishery and bird habitat, and reducing damage from flooding. While visiting the construction site, Director Sams assisted the crew by planting a native shrub and moving turtles out of a pond in the active work zone to keep them out of harm’s way.
During the drive on Old Mine Road, one of the oldest commercial roads in the country, he visited Minisink National Historic Landmark and was briefed by members of the park’s resource management and maintenance teams on historic structures, maintenance challenges, natural and cultural resources, and how the park works with Tribal partners to ensure that sensitive cultural and archeological resources are protected. He also met with staff from the park’s law enforcement and emergency services team and discussed wildland fire, search and rescue, emergency response, and dive team operations.
Congressman Matt Cartwright (PA-8th) and a representative from Senator Bob Casey’s office (PA) joined Director Sams alongside US Route 209 on the Pennsylvania side of the park where they learned about the $21 million repair project funded by the Great American Outdoors Act’s Legacy Restoration Fund that is currently underway.
The 14-mile rehabilitation project will make major improvements to the busiest road in the park. Sams and others heard from park staff about why this infrastructure project was needed and why it is so important to the park and local communities. They also learned about measures the park is taking to protect park resources during construction, including a Scenic and Recreational River and a National Historic Landmark.
Throughout the visit, Sams met with park partners and employees from all disciplines, including the park’s interdisciplinary Summer Operations Team which was formed in 2021 in response to a surge in visitation in 2020. The team is comprised of supervisors from each park team involved in park operations during the “busy season” from spring through fall, and a management liaison.
The team collaborates year-round to plan, communicate, execute, and evaluate a flexible, cross-disciplinary approach to operations that focuses on offering high quality recreational opportunities and visitor experiences while protecting park resources, visitors, and employees.
Sams ended his tour with a meet and greet with park employees over ice cream. During this informal event, the Director thanked the staff for their continued hard work and for their efforts to ensure that resources are protected, and park visitors have an enjoyable and safe experience while visiting the park.
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is located 90-minutes from New York City and Philadelphia and is within a six-hour drive for residents living between Boston and Washington, D.C., the most densely populated region of the country. The park experienced a 27% increase in visitation over the past 3 years and was the 10th most-visited national park in 2020 with 4.1 million visits and the 15th most-visited unit in 2021 with 4.3 million visits.
For more information on Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, call 570-426-2452; visit their website at www.nps.gov/dewa; or follow us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/DelWaterGapNPS and Instagram at www.Instagram.com/DelWaterGapNPS.