State parks should welcome winter sports
As the latest winter storm gives way to clouds and sunshine, it’s likely public relations personnel at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control will once again send out a reminder to the public that dunes in state parks should not be used for sledding or snowboarding, an order park rangers are instructed to enforce.
The dunes play a critical role; they are our first defense against the storms and tides that constantly alter the shoreline and threaten to flood bridges, roads and communities that lie behind the dunes. DNREC installs miles of snow fencing to bolster the duneline and prevent visitors from trampling the critical, yet fragile dunes.
Still, sledding and snowboarding are among the greatest delights of snowy winter days, and people for decades have gone sledding on the back dunes in Cape Henlopen State Park.
Racing down the dunes on a saucer might show temporary impact, but the slight damage in those plantless areas is unlikely to be permanent.
Instead of banning all sledding and snowboarding in the parks, why not set aside one area for sledding and a second nearby slope for snowboarding?
We dare not suggest a trash can for a fire – that would no doubt be far too dangerous – but setting aside a place for sledding would encourage families and young people to get out and enjoy the snow and that special sense of community people suddenly share when they are outside together in crisp, cold air.
It should be the role of government to promote year-round exercise and to encourage citizens to experience the beauty of the beach in the dead of winter, but when it snows, too often the parking lots to our parks are closed.
Our state parks belong to all of us, and they should be open for us to enjoy in all seasons and in all weather.
People who use their parks will protect their parks. Instead of banning sledding and snowboarding, park administration should promote and carefully manage year-round public recreation in our parks.