Pressing play: Tidewater Park in Laurel opens with Native American concept

By Glenn Rolfe
Posted 10/23/21

LAUREL — Phase one of the Native American-themed Tidewater Park is complete and was marked by a ceremonial blessing Thursday.

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Pressing play: Tidewater Park in Laurel opens with Native American concept

Posted

LAUREL — Phase one of the Native American-themed Tidewater Park is complete and was marked by a ceremonial blessing Thursday.

Members of the Nanticoke Indian Association joined town representatives and other officials for the event.

Located off Central Avenue on the north side of Broad Creek, on property that has served as the longtime venue for the town’s Independence Day carnival, Tidewater Park features a nature-based playground with a unique theme and layout.

“There is some pretty neat stuff there, … and there is more to come,” said Laurel Mayor John Shwed. “It is themed after the Nanticoke Indians and their stories, their folklore. It’s going to be a lot of different kind of structures, all themed after Nanticoke Indian folklore.”

Texas-based KOMPAN Inc. has designed the park and contracted its construction, Town Manager Jamie Smith said.

The park’s first phase features the “Story of Creation,” a ceramic turtle, logs and “How the Beaver Got Its Tail,” with a huge wooden beaver whose roots are in central Europe — literally.

“The beaver was actually made in the Czech Republic. When I first heard, I thought, ‘What?’ That blew my mind when I first heard that,” said Mayor Shwed.

“The reason it was made there is, evidently, they have a forest area over there, I guess, that has this type of tree that just doesn’t rot very easily. It is resistant to rot. The wood from the tree doesn’t rot.”

Phase 2 will incorporate a Squirrel Council, while phase 3 will showcase a Rainbow Crow scheme of equipment.

Fundraising for this $1.3 million project is ongoing.

Town officials plan to construct the next two phases throughout 2022 and 2023, “as we get money to build it out,” Mayor Shwed said.

The first phase of the project cost about $185,000. However, adding site work, wetlands and bioswale tasks and a walkway, the total figure was around $500,000, Ms. Smith said.

“We’ve been fortunate so far. We’ve been able to get some pretty good grants from the state Parks and Recreation Division and some help from Sen. Bryant Richardson and Rep. Tim Dukes,” Mayor Shwed said. “We’re trying to get grant money, so we are not using taxpayer revenue because, (in) Laurel, as you know, we have a pretty tight budget.”

Ms. Smith added that the wetlands/bioswale projects were covered by Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control grants.

Tidewater Park is a key component in the redevelopment project coined The Ramble on the Broad Creek waterfront.

In addition to parking at the kayak launch, Ms. Smith said additional spots are in the works for patrons visiting the playground. This would include incorporating town-owned land at the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club’s Laurel site, via an existing pathway.

With support from Delaware State Parks, the Laurel Redevelopment Corp., the University of Delaware, Sea Grant Delaware, the Nanticoke Indian Tribe of Delaware and legislators, Tidewater Park’s mission is to pay tribute to the area’s initial inhabitants and provide a park that is unique and different.

“In America today, this is the kind of park that is being built,” said Mayor Shwed. “They are trying to get kids to play on things that are out of the ordinary, not just a bunch of swings and teeter-totters and that kind of stuff.”