Coastal Sussex has its share of endangered species. Here’s a sampling — and some advice on what’s needed to save them

By Lynn R. Parks  |  Photograph by Jay Fleming
From the May 2015 issue

ENDPipingPlover-JayFleming Sample Stories - Delaware Beach Life - Results from #138On average, an adult piping plover, like the one at left, weighs 54 grams, about the same as a quarter cup of sugar. A northern long-eared bat, despite the ears for which it is named, tops out at around 10 grams, equal to the weight of 10 small paper clips. 

The barking tree frog is the largest tree frog in the southeastern United States. But an adult’s body is typically no more than 7 centimeters, or 2¾ inches, long (not counting their legs). 

Diminutive creatures, all of them. But the piping plover, northern long-eared bat and barking tree frog all occupy unique spots in the coastal Sussex web of life. And all three are among the 86 birds, reptiles, mammals, amphibians, fish, mollusks and insects on the list of Delaware’s endangered species. 

An accident took much from Lilly Barnett. But her determination, and the support of family and friends, have given this young girl hope.

By Jessica Gordon  |  Photograph by Carolyn Watson
From the May 2015 issue

Kid-LillyBarnett Sample Stories - Delaware Beach Life - Results from #138Once you hear Lilly Barnett’s story, chances are you will never forget it. It has elements of both fairy tales and nightmares, and at its core, it’s a testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit and the power of love.

A tragic accident that claimed one life and altered countless others is neither the beginning nor end of Lilly’s story. But it does divide her life — and the lives of her mom Kelly, dad Bryan and younger sister Summer — into two very different chapters: before July 26, 2011, and after. 

It was a warm Tuesday night when Bryan Barnett kissed then 9-year-old Lilly goodbye as she headed out for dinner with her grandmother. “I told her I loved her and watched her be-bop out of here,” he recalls. “Four hours later, I was in a helicopter.”

The helicopter was carrying Lilly to Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Children’s Hospital (often referred to as A.I.) in Wilmington. She was unresponsive and clinging to life after a motorcycle traveling more than 120 mph slammed into the side of Lilly’s grandmother’s Lexus sedan as she crossed Route 1 near Milford. The motorcyclist died at the scene. Lilly’s grandmother suffered minor injuries, but the young girl in the back seat on the passenger side took almost the entire force of the collision. She suffered extensive injuries, from broken ribs and collapsed lungs to a bruised liver.

Four groups work to protect the coastal sussex environment

By Lynn R. Parks  |  Photograph by Kevin Fleming
From the April 2015 issue

Eco-SuzanneThurman Sample Stories - Delaware Beach Life - Results from #138Caring for the environment is a tough job. Suzanne Thurman, who helps to rescue stranded sea mammals and sea turtles through the Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute, which she founded, and who promotes action to keep oceans healthy, says that her work can be overwhelming.

“This work is very important to me, but I just have to take things one day at a time,” she says.

John Doerfler agrees. The vice chairman for the Delaware chapter of Surfrider, which advocates for clean oceans and beaches, says, “It’s easy for people to get discouraged, and to feel that we are being taken hostage by bad decisions.”

And yet, the work continues. Environmentalists compile data and write reports. They send letters, call legislators and speak out at public meetings.

Says Thurman: “If we don’t at least try to make a difference, things will never change.”

What follows are profiles of four groups fighting for the health of the environment in coastal Sussex County. As might be expected, all of them are centered on water: on the ocean, on the creatures in the ocean and on the county’s three inland bays. And despite the hurdles they face, all of their leaders are looking forward to better days ahead.