Public can offer input on master plan for James Farm


The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays (CIB) will host a public workshop on Thursday, May 22, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the South Coastal Library in Bethany Beach, to solicit community input on the development of a Master Plan for the James Farm Ecological Preserve (JFEP).

Those in attendance will be asked to comment and provide their ideas as to how the James Farm could be improved and best-managed for recreation and education in the future. Light refreshments will be provided.

Located on Cedar Neck Road near Ocean View, 1.3 miles north of the intersection with Fred Hudson Road, James Farm is a 150-acre natural preserve donated to Sussex County in 1992. It was given by Mary Lighthipe, a descendant of the James family, who farmed it for several generations, and her wish was that the land be used for recreation and environmental education. The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays has managed the property since 1998.

Attendees to the workshop will learn about the work that the Center for the Inland Bays has done to restore ecosystems and provide recreational and educational amenities at James Farm. Participants will also be presented with the preliminary planning concepts for addressing education and recreation needs at the JFEP, including trails, parking, interpretive signage, safety and storage.

In recent years, CIB representatives noted, visitation has grown dramatically. In 2013, there were 10,000 visits to James Farm. With the population of Sussex County projected to increase by 35 percent by 2030, the CIB, they said, recognized that a master plan would be needed to accommodate the growing number of visitors while protecting the ecology of the James Farm Ecological Preserve.

After inviting proposals and meeting with prospective consultants, the CIB contracted with Oasis Design Group, a landscape architecture and master planning firm from Baltimore, to lead the process of producing the master plan. The firm has recently developed plans for Delaware Seashore State Park and the Thompson Island Nature Preserve.

The James Farm hosts a variety of important native ecosystems, including saltmarsh, maritime forest, warm-season grassland, and emergent and forested freshwater wetlands.

The JFEP is part of a network of protected coastal lands, including Fresh Pond State Park and Delaware Seashore State Park. The parks provide some of the last large contiguous natural areas in the rapidly developing coastal area.

The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays is a non-profit organization established in 1994 to promote the wise use and enhancement of the Inland Bays and its watershed. With its many partners, the CIB conducts public outreach and education, develops and implements restoration projects, encourages scientific inquiry and sponsors research. For more information, call Sally Boswell at (302) 226-8105, or email at outreach@inlandbays.org or go to our website at www.inlandbays.org.