C&D CANAL:  Summit Retriever and Sporting Dog Training Areas

Among the resources the Del Bay Retriever Club offers its members are the Summit Retriever and Sporting Dog Areas located in the Wildlife Area of the C&D Canal.  The area is located along the north bank of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, just west of Delaware Route 896.  Approximately 3 miles in length and 1 mile in width, the Summit Retriever Trial Site (SRTA) and the Sporting Dog Area (SPDA) have been said by many to be the finest public retriever and sporting dog training areas on the East Coast. 

Summarizing an article written by Stein Innvaer (Division of Fish & Wildlife Management) for our 1994 newsletter, the SRTA is located on a site that represents one of the most successful land restoration activities ever undertaken in Delaware.  Prior to the mid-1970's, The SRTA was essentially a wasteland.  The massive amount of material removed to build, improve, and maintain the canal over the years had been deposited in the area, creating an artificial landform.  Even worse, the dredge spoils were highly acidic and very low in nutrients eliminating all vegetative growth.  Through the collective resources of the Army Corp of Engineers, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and the City of Wilmington a program involving extensive liming of the area coupled with applications of digested sewage sludge was activated.   Thanks to Jesse Mitchell, one of DBRC's founding members, a pond which was originally comtemplated as a surface water control impoundment, was redesigned for use as a dog training pond -now appropriately referred to as Mitchell Pond. 

Since these early times, Del Bay has been active in the Canal area and formally assumed stewardship in partnership with the State of Delaware/U.S. Corps of Engineers in the mid-1990’s.  This cooperative relationship has been beneficial to the general public as well as the dog training community.

Del Bay performs many tasks within the canal area:

1.  While active training groups groom the area through daily litter pickup, Del Bay hosts an annual clean-up day the second saturday in July to remove trash and litter.  The State of Delaware provides dump truck and loader and Del Bay provides the labor.  One of our biggest clean-ups involved forty-some Del Bay members who removed 4 tons of trash … roof shingles, bathroom fixtures, cans, glass, etc. and a discarded boat.  During these clean-up days, we also do significant hand trimming of vegetation around the ponds and mounds. 

2.  We typically fund three or four mowings per year - May, June/July, and September/October.  Each mowing consists of approximately 30-40 hours of cutting.  The cost is born almost entirely by the Del Bay Club through membership funds, picnic (training) trials, hunt tests, and field trials.  Individuals and other Retriever Clubs, most noteably the Labrador Retriever Club, have also made donations towards the maintenance of the Canal.   Del Bay allocates approximately $10,000 a year for these mowings.

3.  We regularly enhance the dog training areas through special projects.  In 2004 Del Bay embarked on three special projects:  (a)  controlling the invasive Purple Loosestripe plant through a beetle release project in cooperation with the University of Delaware with costs shared by Del Bay, the University of Delaware, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Water Resource Foundation;  (b)  maintaining the roads in the dog training areas with cooperative construction of the State of Delaware National Guard; and (c ) the construction of mounds for handing and casting.  More mounds have been added throughout the years.  Last year (2009) we again participated in a massive road repair effort with the help of the Corps of Engineers.   This year (2010) we are undertaking a massive multi-year program to cleanse the two major ponds - Mitchell and Flat Water - of invasive weeds and grasses.  With DNREC's blessing, we have hired an Aquatic Environmental Consultant who has reviewed the pond vegetation, applied for the necessary permits, and will be treating the ponds appropriately.  Over the next couple of years, we hope to return both ponds to their former beauty and full use as dog training facilities. 

4.  We assist in law enforcement through reporting unlawful behaviors such as illegal gun behavior, “turfing” fields, use of unlicensed vehicles, and so forth.  It is not uncommon to discover abandoned stolen vehicles that have been torched.  Del Bay’s daily presence contributes to the discouragement of unlawful and environmentally destructive behavior.

As mentioned above, the development of the C&D Canal dog training areas was accomplished under the early leadership of Del Bay members.  Jesse Mitchell led the efforts; however, many other Del Bay members whose names are now lost in history contributed significantly to the creation of the dog training areas.  During the last twenty years, many other DBRC members have taken active roles in the maintenance of the Canal.  Current and future Del Bay Club members and the general dog training public are indebted to the early foresight and continued efforts of all involved.  If you have suggestions or comments regarding the Canal grounds, please feel free to contact one of the following members who currently serve as the Club's grounds committee - Jeff Lyons, chairman, Dora Heffelfinger, president, John Fallon, or Lyn Yelton. 




Last Updated (Monday, 16 August 2010 22:01)