‘Marvel’-ous Additions: Abbott’s Mill recognizes Milford’s Marvel family

 Abbott’s Mill site manager Matt Babbitt unveils a new sign recognizing the Marsh family land donation with family members and local leaders. He is joined by Patrick Krechting, Kate Marvel, Matt Spong, Delaware Nature Society Executive Director Brian Winslow and Harvey Marvel, Jr. See more about new educational opportunities at the Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve on page 7. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

Abbott’s Mill site manager Matt Babbitt unveils a new sign recognizing the Marsh family land donation with family members and local leaders. He is joined by Patrick Krechting, Kate Marvel, Matt Spong, Delaware Nature Society Executive Director Brian Winslow and Harvey Marvel, Jr. See more about new educational opportunities at the Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve on page 7. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

SLAUGHTER BEACH — The Delaware Nature Society and the town of Slaughter Beach hope visitors to the Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve will do more than skim the surface thanks to the help of a new sign and improvements to the marsh.

“The story is huge, and I think we don’t know the half of it yet,” Abbott’s Mill Site Manager Matt Babbitt said.

Students often visit the preserve during field trips, donning giant overalls called waders, in hopes of finding buried but living treasures underneath the seemingly endless layers of mud, stones and other natural debris.

“But that’s about as far as they usually go. They can’t go very far here, but look out there; at night, it’s like the Serengeti,” local resident Kathy Long said.

Little do the students and visitors know of the 109-acres of preserved land right before their own eyes when they visit the preserve that was once meant for something entirely different.

Slaughter Beach was largely undeveloped in the late 1950s when Violet and Harvey, Sr., purchased beach front property and wetlands.

During a quick tour of the area last week, Senator Gary Simpson looks out into the 109-acre saltmarsh donated by the Marvel family in 1989.  The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

During a quick tour of the area last week, Senator Gary Simpson looks out into the 109-acre saltmarsh donated by the Marvel family in 1989. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

“By the mid-1970s, it was completely sold out,” their son Harvey Marvel, Jr. said.

The Marvel family may have built homes on Slaughter Beach lots in just the nick of time as environmental guidelines put in place in the 1970s restricted the development of wetlands.

“By that time, the land had been transferred to my brother and I. So we owned what’s now the preserve from the mid-70s to the late-80s. We just couldn’t do anything with it,” Mr. Marvel said.

To fix their dilemma, the brothers donated the land to the Delaware Nature Society through Abbott’s Mill Nature Center.

“It had some value, like duck hunting or goose hunting. But we’re not into that,” Mr. Marvel said. “Our kids were involved at Abbott’s Mill. They said they would use the property for education for the kids, which we thought was a pretty unique thing for our kids to carry forward as a legacy.”

Abbott’s Mill Nature Center began using the property right away, according to Mr. Marvel and Mr. Babbitt.

 Residents, local leaders and the Marvel family gathered Tuesday for the unveiling of a new sign recognizing the family for their 1989 donation of the saltmarsh preserve in Slaughter Beach. Pictured above are, on the bottom row from left to right, Matt Spong, Abbott’s Mill Site Manager Matt Babbitt, Patrick Krechting and Mark Carter of Dogfi sh Head’s Beer and Benevolence program. On the top row from left to right are Kathy Lock, Delaware Nature Society Executive Director Brian Winslow, State Rep. Harvey Kenton, Slaughter Beach Mayor Harry Ward, State Senator Gary Simpson, Kate and Harvey Marvel, Jr. and Randy Marvel. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

Residents, local leaders and the Marvel family gathered Tuesday for the unveiling of a new sign recognizing the family for their 1989 donation of the saltmarsh preserve in Slaughter Beach. Pictured above are, on the bottom row from left to right, Matt Spong, Abbott’s Mill Site Manager Matt Babbitt, Patrick Krechting and Mark Carter of Dogfi sh Head’s Beer and Benevolence program. On the top row from left to right are Kathy Lock, Delaware Nature Society Executive Director Brian Winslow, State Rep. Harvey Kenton, Slaughter Beach Mayor Harry Ward, State Senator Gary Simpson, Kate and Harvey Marvel, Jr. and Randy Marvel. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

New sign to be modeled across Delaware

To recognize the gift given to the nature society and the community, the Delaware Nature Society unveiled a new sign March 22 at the Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve in Slaughter Beach.

Delaware Nature Society Executive Director Brian Winslow said the sign will be used as a model for future signs across the state recognizing land donors.

“We’re working on uniformity and branding all the sites. We do conservation, advocacy and education. Tying it all together is the hard part, but this is a great example,” he said.

The new sign was installed by Rogers Sign Co. based out of Milton and made possible by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s Beer and Benevolence program.

Improvements to benefit visitors

The nature society was also recently awarded a Lands and Waters Conservation Trust Fund Grant through Delaware’s Department of Natural Resource & Environmental Control for the design of a public boardwalk to be built at the preserve.

“We’re really pleased that the Delaware Nature Society and the town of Slaughter Beach have formed a good partnership there and have combined their resources to improve the property like building the boardwalks. I think that’s really great,” Mr. Marvel said.

Abbott's Mill Nature Center Site Manager Matt Babbitt explores plans for the boardwalks with Matt Spong of Landscaping Architectural Services and Mark Carter of Dogfish Head's Beer and Benevolence program during a quick tour of the saltmarsh area in Slaughter Beach. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

Abbott’s Mill Nature Center Site Manager Matt Babbitt explores plans for the boardwalks with Matt Spong of Landscaping Architectural Services and Mark Carter of Dogfish Head’s Beer and Benevolence program during a quick tour of the saltmarsh area in Slaughter Beach. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

According to Mr. Winslow, the new boardwalks will vastly expand opportunities available in the town of Slaughter Beach who wish to study wildlife habitats and ecosystems.

Although further funding will be sought for the construction phase of the boardwalk project, funding for the design phase has been provided by DNREC’s Bayshore Initiative, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s Beer and Benevolence program and the Delaware Nature Society itself.

“The surveyors did say they had fun with the geese while they were out here. The geese chased them and everything,” Matt Spong, principal at Landscaping Architectural Services, L.L.C., said. “We don’t anticipate any major problems; but it will take a while for the permitting process to complete.”

Last spring, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center staff members added an osprey nesting platform with the help of the Slaughter Beach community, DNREC’s DuPont Nature Center and the Sussex County Council.

“I hope that they complete their boardwalk project there and that it continues to be used for education,” Mr. Marvel added. “I’d love this to be a place for people to get out of their car, walk to the end and look at the marsh and wildlife and that the rest of it is just preserved in its natural state.”

 

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.