New Wetland Park in Delaware Solves Decades of Flooding Issues

The Takeaway: A formerly contaminated area in Delaware has been turned into a park that restores and enhances existing wetlands, provides a recreation area for the community, and hosts a stormwater management facility that reduces flooding.

Two people walk across a bridge over vegetation.
A new 1,800-foot handicap-accessible route runs through the Southbridge Wetlands Park, offering local residents better walking accessibility and recreational activities. © John Hinkson/TNC

A new 30-acre wetland park is solving a decades-long flooding issue. Delaware’s Southbridge Wetlands Park boasts a 20-acre stormwater management facility and restores 14 acres of wetlands, not only providing recreational amenities, but addressing the challenges posed by rising sea levels and flooding. The project is enhancing resiliency, restoring freshwater tidal exchange, filtering polluted runoff, and improving the overall habitat for diverse wildlife species. It is supported by several grants, including the National Coastal Resilience Fund.

A small body of water appears next to vegetation with two tall buildings in the background.
The finished park holds a 20-acre stormwater management facility and restores 14 acres of wetlands. © John Hinkson/TNC

During nearly every major storm event, Southbridge residents found their streets, basements, and sidewalks flooded due to a combination of the neighborhood’s low-lying location and aging infrastructure. Delaware’s Coastal Management Program began working with community leaders on the future of the area in 2004. As the improvement plan progressed to separating the aging sewer system and providing efficient stormwater management, the neighborhood faced a critical obstacle: escalating flooding caused by rising sea levels and the intensification of storms. Another significant issue arose with the detection of high levels of known carcinogens in the planned park area. Nearly 9,000 truckloads of soil were removed and highly contaminated areas were blocked off. Ultimately, the 16-year-long project saw the area cleaned up and restored, and the storm sewer overflow now runs into the engineered wetland and supplies water for the park.

Great progress has been made with the park’s completion, and the sewer separation project is expected to be completed in late 2023.Through strong partnerships and grants, South Wilmington’s future is being reshaped, empowering the community to withstand the impacts of climate change and maintain a sustainable neighborhood. (2023)

Partners: NOAA, City of Wilmington Department of Public Works, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control