A Walk in the Park
In Newark, it’s easy to play.
Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to love about Newark, which has a remarkable 33 designated park areas within its city limits. “You could make a day out of enjoying one of our parks,” says Joe Spadafino, recreation superintendent for the city of Newark.
Then you can make another day—or two or three—of enjoying parks just outside Newark, which include White Clay Creek State Park and the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area.
Not content to rest on its parkland, Newark also offers year-round programs through its department of parks and recreation. This summer alone, there are more than 200.
Pick a Park
Newark’s parks range from the less-than-an-acre Douglas D. Alley Park, a neighborhood park with playground equipment and picnic tables, to the nearly 46-acre Rittenhouse Park, home to two miles of hiking trails. Rittenhouse offers access to the Christina Creek, a popular fishing area, and, in summer, it hosts Hobbit Half Day Camps.
Most parks have playground areas, and there are four baseball fields. The 7-acre Fairfield Park holds three tennis courts and a soccer field. Both the 8.2-acre Edna C. Dickey Park and the George Wilson Center and Park have swimming pools, open June 9 through August 15, from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Pool admission for Newark residents is free, and children under 9 must be accompanied by an adult.
Dickey Park also offers a baseball-softball field, street hockey area, basketball court and horseshoe courts. The George Wilson Community Center, available for rent, is ideal for birthday parties, meetings, baby showers, or civic and association meetings.
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Pick an Activity
The department of parks and recreation’s list of activities spans page after page of the city’s newsletter. “Lots of programs have been around for a long time,” Spadafino says. “They’ve been very successful.” New programs are inspired by trends in Delaware and around the country. There’s a summer camp for just about any sport. Consider camps devoted to baseball, soccer, lacrosse and volleyball. The full- and half-day camps also cover theater, music and art.
The city offers classes to teach horseback riding, gymnastics, archery, swimming, tennis—even horseshoes. Classes aren’t limited to kids. “There’s plenty of stuff for adults. They shouldn’t just keep the kids busy and leave themselves out,” Spadafino says. Take, for instance, outings to see Broadway shows, such as “The Lion King,” and trips to Annapolis, Maryland. Adult-oriented classes include tai chi and kickboxing.
Just a stone’s throw away…
Within biking distance of Main Street rests the 3,600-acre White Clay Creek State Park, which stretches from Del. 896 to Polly Drummond Road. The park is best known for its 37 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. The paths meander to scenic overlooks, past rocky outcrops and to historic sites.
Both hikers and cyclists can traverse the Middle Run Valley Natural Area to Possum Hill. There’s a life course fitness trail in the Carpenter Recreation Area, and the Pomeroy Rail-Trail leads to a pedestrian bridge over White Clay Creek.
The creek in spring and fall is stocked with trout. Fishermen can also catch sunfish and bluegills in four small ponds.
Birders flock to White Clay Creek, especially during migrations. “They go right out to the stream valley, where the birds seem to congregate,” says park superintendent Nick McFadden. The Chambers House Nature Center, located within the park, holds bird-watching excursions guided by naturalists.
Just beyond the city limits, south on Del. 896, is Iron Hill County Park, a 335-acre recreation and historic area. The forested hill, pocked with Colonial era ore pits, is the lower extent of the Appalachian Piedmont. A small museum, once a one-room schoolhouse, tells the area’s history. Covered with trails, the hill is a popular area for hikers and off-road cyclists. Some trails are paved, making the area accessible to a greater number of people. There’s also a fenced dog park and playground. Ambitious walkers can reach the park via trails from Newark’s municipal parks.
After a hike, stroll or game of Frisbee golf, Newarkers can seek their reward outside a Main Street café, where they can linger over a refreshing drink or creamy gelato. Or they can join family around the picnic table.
Newark just makes it too darn hard to go indoors.