State buys additional Sassafras River-area land
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.”
Several yachts line up in the Sassafras River’s waters.