With the uncertainty and anxiety of the global pandemic, perhaps no moment in recent history has reminded us more dramatically of the vital role of nature to our well being.
Studies have shown that time in nature is an antidote for stress: It lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels, reduces nervous system arousal, enhances immune system function, increases self-esteem, reduces anxiety, and improves mood.
This is immediately evident when speaking with Wilmington Parks Superintendent, Alana Delaney, who smiles broadly, laughs easily, and speaks with passion about a job she clearly loves.
In her role as Wilmington and Alapocas Run State Parks Superintendent, Alana is responsible for oversight and management of Brandywine, Alapocas Run, H. Fletcher Brown and Rockford Parks, as well as Kentmere Parkway — nearly 600 acres in all.
Alana grew up on Long Island, New York, where she was “constantly outside.”
“My parents took us hiking and camping and to all sorts of different natural areas,” She says. “I was surrounded by people who loved nature and getting outside, and really wanted their kids to feel that way.”
Alana moved to The First State to attend the University of Delaware in 2006. It was an epiphany while volunteering for Americorps at White Clay Creek that crystallized her career in park management.
“I just fell in love,” she says. “I was so eager to take myself out of my comfort zone, learn the biodiversity of Delaware, the rules and regulations and how parts worked.”
Alana has worked in Delaware parks ever since, performing eight different roles including Youth Program Coordinator, Camp Director, and Park Patrol Officer at twelve Delaware parks.
One unique feature of our local parks, she says, is their industrial past.
“Either nature has reclaimed spaces, or we’re maintaining and preserving historic features that follow the tale of the quarry [and] mill industries,” she says. “There are a lot of different stories to tell.”
One of those stories is the slow, cautious emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our summer is going to look a little bit different again,” Alana said. “But we are finding ways to adapt.”
In addition to the return of Summer Concerts at Rockford Park, Alana said Sugar Bowl performances (in partnership with Friends of Wilmington Parks) will return with “a limited schedule” as well.
Alana also provided updates on improved pedestrian and bike lanes in Rockford Park (which is pending Public Works and DelDOT measurements), and public parking near Bancroft Mills Bridge (where 25 spots will be returned to the public upon completion of area construction).
“These parks are a real treasure,” Alana reminded us. “Please, take advantage of those areas!”
Your well being may thank you.