Earth Day 2020 is looking a lot different than it does in most years. While the day is often full of festivals, this 50th anniversary is quieter and possibly more natural than ever.

Public gatherings of more than 10 people are forbidden during Delaware’s State of Emergency, with a goal of slowing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). But people can enjoy nature on a more personal basis.

Bethany Beach Nature Center had to close its Route 26 cottage to the public, but the trail and gardens are still open daily, from dawn to dusk. It’s free and handicapped-accessible.

“People just don’t realize how deep it goes back, and they’re always just so surprised. … They feel like they discovered something nobody else knows about,” said director Nancy Lucy.

Although heartbroken about canceling the annual Earth Day celebration, she said she is looking forward to planning other family-friendly programs this summer.

“Today is Earth Day, and it’s such a gorgeous day,” Lucy said on Wednesday morning, April 22.

“Honestly, this is how it was when we moved here from [Washington] D.C. in1974. There was no traffic. There was no activity at this time of year. It was still extremely quiet.”

Coastal Delaware has become an almost year-round destination, and many people have noticed the increase in people and buildings.

As people are urged to shelter-in-place across the world, traffic has nearly stopped, and factories have stopped producing. It’s a scary time for humans, as many are either worried about illness, being out of work or taking a pay cut (including Lucy).

But suddenly, smog is lifting from China. Venetian canals are calm enough to see the shallow bottoms. Indian households can see the Himalayas at a distance for the first time in years.

“There’s a lot more to life before we leave this planet, besides leaving material goods,” Lucy said. “It feels like everybody’s peddling so fast that you lose that sense of what we’re going through — but now we really have time! With every bad thing comes a good thing, we just have to figure it out.”

She encouraged people to take a first step outdoors, and Bethany Beach Nature Center is one place for doing that. People can sit on a bench, hike the trail, walk a dog, go geocaching, or gaze at the osprey nests and minnow pond.

Just sit outside and absorb it, “because that’s going to give you the balance. … It’s not like you have to buy it. It’s an investment that you’re not even paying money for. But it’s an investment. It’s just something you need.”

Being outdoors is all about quality of life, and it’s something to pass on to our children, Lucy said.

“You don’t have to go to extremes. You can find a balance, and you can see why trees are important and water is important. It’s life! if you give yourself time to think about it.”

She encouraged people to “just do one thing” to be kinder to the environment.

“Go solar or eat more plants, or plant milkweed. … Just start with an action. Then that action becomes repetitive and it becomes a habit.”

She said she’s looking forward to greeting visitors again and hearing their new perspectives after a springtime of shelter-in-place. But until then, the grass is still growing, the fish are flitting and the turtles are snapping.

Staff Reporter

Laura Walter is an award-winning reporter on schools, environment, people and history. A graduate of Indian River High School and Washington College, she has rappelled off a building and assisted a magician, and encourages readers to act on local issues.