State buys ad­di­tional Sas­safras River-area land

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JA­COB OWENS & JACK RODGERS jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

KENNEDYVILLE — Scenic river ac­cess, rolling hills and miles of hik­ing trails are just a few things that make Sas­safras Nat­u­ral Re­source Man­age­ment Area a sta­ple of Kent County’s open space.

On Nov. 1, the Maryland Board of Pub­lic Works ap­proved the pur­chase of 191 acres of land to the Sas­safras NRMA. The Haentze Farm prop­erty was ac­quired with nearly $2.7 mil­lion in Maryland De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources Pro­gram Open Space funds.

While the Sas­safras NRMA, lo­cated north of Kennedyville in Kent County across the Sas­safras River from the Grove Neck Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary in Ce­cil County, cur­rently spans a 1,300-acre area, the new­est ad­di­tion will pro­vide con­ser­va­tion­ists a view of ravines, ac­cess to Loyd’s Creek and more than a mile of shore­line.

The new­est ad­di­tions will com­ple­ment DNR’s ac­qui­si­tion of OBX Farms off the Bo­hemia River in Ce­cil County this past sum­mer. That 460-acre par­cel is cur­rently be­ing de­vel­oped by the Maryland Park Ser­vice to be turned into Bo­hemia River State Park, the county’s first park south of the C&D Canal.

The Sas­safras NRMA pro­vides pas­sive, na­ture-based re­cre­ation op­por­tu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing bik­ing, fish­ing, hik­ing, horse­back rid­ing, hunt­ing and pad­dling.The area is also the site of an his­toric, fed­eral style house circa 1796 known as Knocks Folly. The prop­erty also is home to sev­eral sub­merged veg­e­ta­tion beds, which are used by com­mer­cial and recre­ational fish, in­clud­ing large­mouth bass.

With the ac­qui­si­tion of the ma­ture for­rest area, the Maryland Park Ser­vice plans to ex­pand Sas­safras NRMA’s cur­rent 9 miles of hik­ing trails and open mul­ti­ple read­ily-avail­able wa­ter ac­cess points. It re­mains to be seen if MPS may add an­other boat ramp in the area, as the Sas­safras River is a pop­u­lar boat­ing des­ti­na­tion. The state cur­rently op­er­ates boat ramps at Fred­er­ick­town in Ce­cil County and Turn­ers Creek Land­ing in Kent County.

The Sas­safras En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter also op­er­ates at the Sas­safras NRMA, pro­vid­ing pro­gram­ming for youth or­ga­ni­za­tions and schools un­der a part­ner­ship with the Eastern Shore Land Con­ser­vancy, a con­ser­va­tion­ist non­profit which helped se­cure the needed Pro­gram Open Space funds.

“Four ma­jor pos­i­tive things came from this,” said Wayne Gilchrest, di­rec­tor of the Sas­safras En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter. “A grow­ing of agri­cul­ture, great ac­cess to the Sas­safras River and Loyd’s Creek, a sanc­tu­ary for wildlife, such as tur­key, ea­gles and geese, and it ex­pands the cur­rent Sas­safras land.”

Gilchrest works with chil­dren giv­ing in­for­ma­tional tours and lead­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

“We’re set up to work with kids ages K-12, and our over­all theme is ecol­ogy,” he said. “This gives us more land to work with our agri­cul­ture ideas, in­clud­ing plant­ing trees for for­rest buf­fers near ravines to re­duce ero­sion.”

Maryland Nat­u­ral Re­sources Sec­re­tary Mark Bel­ton also spoke highly about the ac­qui­si­tion of the land in the news re­lease that an­nounced the ad­di­tion.

“The de­part­ment con­tin­ues to seek out op­por­tu­ni­ties to cre­ate and ex­pand pub­lic ac­cess to our wa­ter­ways,” Bel­ton said. “This prop­erty, lo­cated along the banks of the scenic and spec­tac­u­lar Sas­safras River, fits the bill.”

PHOTO BY ADELMA GRE­GORY-BUNNELL

Sev­eral yachts line up in the Sas­safras River’s wa­ters.

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