Skip to content
Facebook iconYouTube iconTwitter iconFlickr iconLinkedInInstagram
Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
HEP Events Guidance Publications Glossary Awards Contacts

EHEI Award: Enhancing the Environment for Human Activities

Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge


The Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge lies along the Christina River, southwest of Wilmington, Delaware. In 1995, the Delaware General Assembly established the nonprofit organization the Riverfront Development Corporation of Delaware (RDC) to improve the corridor's economic vitality. RDC purchased the refuge site in 1998, following the construction of I-95 in 1968. After renovation, the refuge will include a variety of ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, and meadows.

Before RDC purchased the refuge area, the land was used to dispose of debris from construction on I-95. In 1998, RDC partnered with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the Division of Fish and Wildlife to remove the invasive plant species from the site. Following the initial site clean-up, RDC conducted a series of restoration and enhancement projects at the refuge.

In 2005, the first phase of restoration on the site improved Dravo Marsh and stabilized 1,000 feet of shoreline. Dravo Marsh is the site of Little Mill Creek, which was significantly altered during early shoreline development. RDC and DNREC introduced native plant species and controlled exotic species throughout the marsh. DNREC sponsored the Marsh Restoration Project, which included re-grading the wetlands to create vernal pools and closure of the riverbank berm.

In 2009, the second phase of restoration included the DuPont Environmental Education Center, the pedestrian bridge over the existing railroad, and the trails that connect the site to residential and commercial areas. A unique part of this restoration includes the walkway that connects the education center to the boardwalk. The raised boardwalk connection includes observation decks and educational signage that explains the surrounding ecosystem.

The trails and education center are part of a collaborative effort between DNREC and a Citizens Advisory Committee. The Committee brought together representatives from environmental organizations; local, State, and Federal agencies; community members; and businesses to design the new center and trail network. The refuge and education center are accessible by the DART trolley river taxi and by private vehicle. Since opening in 2009, thousands of visitors and school children visited the refuge.

Management of the site is a collaborative effort by private and public agencies. RDC is responsible for the maintenance of the boardwalk and works with the Delaware Nature Society to manage the educational programs. The DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife manages the refuge. Funding partners for the education center and trail system include: RDC, New Castle County, the DuPont Company, the Longwood Foundation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Welfare Foundation.

For more information, contact Megan McGlinchey, RDC of Delaware at or Nick Blendy, Environmental Specialist, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) DelMar Division, Delaware Office at

Photo of boardwalk and education center building
Boardwalk and Education Center
Source: RDC and FHWA
Aerial photo of urban area with riverfront greenspace
Riverfront Park and the City of Wilmington
Source: RDC and FHWA
People walking along riverfron walkway
Riverfront walk
Source: RDC and FHWA
Aerial photo of highway
I-95 in the 1960s, adjacent to the refuge area
Source: RDC and FHWA
Updated: 06/27/2017
Updated: 6/27/2017
HEP Home Planning Environment Real Estate
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000