The Longwood Foundation grants $ 200,000 to the James Farm reserve
The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays announced the recent award of a $ 200,000 grant from the Longwood Foundation, which will bring the center of creating a regionally significant environmental education experience closer to the James Farm Ecological Preserve.
“We are extremely grateful to the directors of Longwood for realizing the importance of James Farm and for choosing to support it at such a high level,” said Chris Bason, Executive Director of CIB. “Their rigorous application process challenged us to think critically about the potential impact of our efforts and how best to maximize that impact for the benefit of our community. We and our nonprofit colleagues are fortunate to have a foundation like Longwood that invests so significantly in the quality of life and the future of Delaware.
A transformation of the 150-acre nature reserve near Ocean View took years. Additional planned upgrades include realigning the existing trail network to accommodate both sea level rise and creating a more naturally immersive visitor experience, installing interpretive signs to inform visitors to the ecosystems and history of the reserve, and the development of new maintenance facilities to provide storage and workshop space to better care for the reserve and support the centre’s environmental restoration efforts at scale of the watershed.
This additional funding from Longwood will kick off the next round of improvements, which will expand environmental education opportunities for people of all ages and abilities, support the growing number of visits to the reserve, and allow the center to better fulfill its mission in s ‘addressing a larger, more diverse audience.
The project is a joint effort between the center and Sussex County, with the county committing nearly $ 300,000 for the improvements. Along with George & Lynch, the county also provided in-kind services for the newly installed ADA-compliant toilets on the reserve. The James Farm property is owned by Sussex County and is managed by the center.
The planned improvements are part of the second phase of the centre’s master plan for the reserve, which also includes the construction of a three-season education building that will enhance environmental learning experiences and provide shelter from the elements.
The master plan has been developed with the collective input of stakeholders, residents and visitors with the aim of meeting the needs related to the physical restoration and management of the property, while taking into account emerging issues such as elevation from sea level.
When the reserve was originally developed in 1998, the facility was not built to accommodate the rapid population growth that Sussex County is experiencing. With only primitive shelters and facilities, disruption of outdoor learning experiences is inevitable in inclement weather.
In 2020, as more people sought solace in the outdoors, the reserve received nearly 40,000 unique visits, marking an increase of almost 300% from 2012 attendance estimates. In recent years, more and more visitors have discovered the unique offerings found along the shores of Indian River Bay. With its natural collection of diverse coastal ecosystems like freshwater wetlands, salt marshes and maritime forests, the reserve showcases the magnificent beauty of the Delmarva Peninsula and is home to ospreys, shorebirds, horseshoe crabs and an abundance of other wildlife.
The reserve also provides critical environmental education to underserved local students. The Day on the Bay program, which has served over 19,000 students with a fully immersive and program-aligned STEM education since its inception 20 years ago, will benefit tremendously from the planned improvements. The new education building will not only accommodate more students and continue bad weather programming, but will also create an immersive learning experience so that students can foster a meaningful connection with the outdoors.
Fundraising for the project continues through the Lessons in Nature fundraising campaign. A portion of the proceeds from the annual Decked Out event! Fundraising scheduled for Thursday, September 30 at the Big Chill Beach Club will support planned improvements to the reserve. Those interested in supporting the project are invited to contact the center at inlandbays.org.
Implementation of the first phase of the James Farm master plan began in fall 2018 and included expanded parking facilities to increase capacity while safely accommodating increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic, designated parking for school buses for the safe transportation of students and a multipurpose lawn – recreation area and community events.
The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays is a nonprofit organization established in 1994 and one of 28 National Estuary Programs. Along with its many partners, the center works to preserve, protect and restore the Delaware Inner Bays and their watershed.