After listening to a presentation about the development of a nature center in Ocean View, and a request for funding, this week, Sussex County Council members said they were pleased to see plans proceed.

“I’m excited to see that land is preserved,” Councilman John Rieley told Ocean View Town Manager Carol Houck, who made the presentation about open space at Double Bridges and Muddy Neck roads at the Tuesday, March 21, council meeting.

Rieley suggested she request a grant from the Sussex County Land Trust, a non-profit dedicated to conservation, to help pay for developing the nature center, and said the council will meet with Land Trust officials in the next month or two.

“We can certainly have more meetings and get into more details, but you put a lot of work and diligence into this, for sure,” Councilman Doug Hudson told Houck.

During the presentation, Houck explained that the Ocean View Town Council purchased four acres of land along the Assawoman Canal in September of 2022 for $500,000, intending to create the nature park.

The projected cost is $1.5 million. The Town has received $211,747 in American Rescue Plan Act money and $288,253 from a Sussex County Excess Transfer Tax grant. Both were one-time grants.

Ocean View also received a $60,000 outdoor recreation and parks and trail grant from DNREC and an $825,000 Transportation Alternative Program grant from DelDOT.

“There has been a great deal of excitement during kickoff meetings with DelDOT and DNREC. There are also trail connections being worked on from Double Bridges Road that can lead into this very nice park. We are asking for additional funds Council might want to provide to help us get to the finish line for the development sooner than later,” she told them.

Houck didn’t ask for a set amount from the County, and the council did not suggest an amount or vote on Tuesday.

She described the property, sold to the Town by Raymond Berzins, as “a pristine and scenic natural area” and explained that plans included a raised boardwalk with overlook areas, walking trails through the woods, educational kiosks, a picnic area, parking lot, and bike and trail connections to the park.

“Once we build it, it will always be in Sussex County and the Town of Ocean View will always maintain it, so it is a win-win. There are a lot of areas in Ocean View that don’t have sidewalks for people to walk, so this project will create a great opportunity,” she told council members.

“The Town saw this as an opportunity to increase outdoor recreation options while eliminating development in that area,” she said, adding that the need for open space for Ocean View residents was identified in the Town’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan.

Showing the council an aerial photograph of the area, Houck explained that there are plans for a trail through the wooded upland and raised boardwalk viewing area that would “give community ability to get out in nature and enjoy the beauty of the area.”

At first, the walking trail will be about .25 miles long, with plans to extend it to 1 mile, she said.

Director of Planning, Zoning & Development Ken Cimino was scheduled to present with Houck, but was ill, Houck said.

Staff Reporter

Veteran news reporter Susan Canfora has written for many newspapers and held positions ranging from managing editor to her favorite, news reporter. She joined the Coastal Point in June 2019. She teaches college writing, tutors and professionally edits.