Proposed botanic gardens could be huge boost

The Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing last week for a conditional-use application for Southern Delaware Botanic Gardens, a proposed project to be located in an agricultural residential district in Dagsboro.

“Their mission is to create an inspirational, educational and sustainable public garden in southern Delaware for the benefit and enjoyment of the public,” said Mark Davidson of Pennoni Associates, the principal land planner and consultant for the project. “They desire to create Delaware’s first flagship botanic garden.”

Sounds great, right? Another draw to encourage people to come visit our little coastal oasis, and something close that all the local people can get to and visit whenever they choose. Well, wait. There’s more.

The 36.99-acre property, south of Piney Neck Road and west of Bunting Road, is owned by the Sussex County Land Trust, but would be leased to the nonprofit group for 99 years, with the option of renewal.

So, local botanical garden, and the property is already found and arrangements have been made. Still sound good? Well, wait. There’s more.

Davidson also said that the project is expected to generate approximately 394 new jobs in the region, with 110 full- and part-time jobs in the gardens themselves. It was estimated that the gardens would bring $33 million to the local economy of its surrounding area.

The organization also plans to build a large pond and arboretum, and there will be electic flat-bottom boats so people can go on a 35-minute tour with an ecologist onboard, so people can enjoy the gardens from the water, and learn more about local ecology. If approved and constructed, the gardens would be open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to dusk, and annual attendance is estimated to be 84,000 people a year.

This is huge, people.

While the P&Z commission is going to defer their decision on this project until the receipt of comments from the State’s Preliminary Land Use Service (PLUS), and should, there wasn’t any negative feedback from the commissioners at the hearing.

This is a win-win situation. The local economy gets a shot in the arm if all goes as planned, open land will be preserved in the form of a beautiful botanical garden and young people will get an education on the natural beauty that helps make this area what it is for so many of us.

We feel as if this could be a tremendous project for this entire community, and thank those who have put in so much work to give this a shot.