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Please Choose a Park:
Wilmington State Parks
by Barbara Woodford, Wilmington State Parks Naturalist
Read Barbara's bio.
Rest, Relax, Renew in our Urban Parks
William Poole Bancroft had a plan in 1915. You and I are the plan’s beneficiaries. Each time you enter Brandywine Park, climb the Rockford Tower and look over the rich landscape, walk your dog in Rockford Park, stroll along the Brandywine Creek from Bancroft Mills to Market Street in Wilmington or hike through Alapocas Woods, you are stepping into what William Poole Bancroft envisioned for the future.
Who is William Bancroft? Son of Joseph Bancroft, textile mill owner, brother and partner of Samuel Bancroft (philanthropist and art collector), William continued the family’s legacy of hard work and innovation during our city’s great industrial surge and tireless advocacy for mill workers’ health and well being.
What was going on in the city? Wilmington had been experiencing rapid (some might say phenomenal) growth in the late 1800s as a result of new technology and milling. The city borders were expanding, the call for infrastructure to provide housing, roads, food and basic needs was also increasing.
William Bancroft was fully aware of the impact this growth was having on the Brandywine Creek valley and also on mill workers. Bancroft Mill workers, like many other mill workers, spent six days a week, often twelve hours per day laboring to bring their product to the world markets. On April 20, 1915, William wrote a note to a “Dear Friend.” In it, he described his plan…
"I have planned that some parts of this land, that along the Creek above Rockland, the large tract of woodland and some other parts, including a parkway from Alapocas woods to the large tract of woodland, shall ultimately belong to Wilmington, and that all proceeds from the remainder of the lands shall be applied to Wilmington park purposes or in aid of educational and charitable institutions and its neighborhood.
"I suppose it will be fifty, years, perhaps much more, before Wilmington will get to such a size that what I have indicated above will be of great value. I hope to have tentative plans of roads and parks made that will be some indication of what may be ultimate arrangements.
Fifty years from 1915? For many of us, the 1960s were a world apart from just 50 years earlier. I often wonder though, how William Bancroft, born in 1835, could have been so correct about the force of change and the need to hold onto the natural resources in our city.
Of course, William Bancroft did not make all of this happen on his own. Many people were involved in the development of our urban parks. And certainly, when the Wilmington Board of Park Commissioners began to breathe life into Brandywine Park (1883-1895), many people worked for the retention and development of such natural spaces.
As a park naturalist, I find myself in our parks regularly drawing from nature’s diversity, enjoying the balance and tranquility it offers. I hope that you will make every effort to take a moment each day to discover our parks as a perfect place to rest, relax, and renew, just as early park advocates like William Poole Bancroft thought you might. See you in the park!