Yesterday, project partners broke ground on phase one of the revitalization of the old J.B. Robinson Oyster House site along the Seaford River Walk. Seaford Mayor David Genshaw and Chesapeake Conservancy Board Chair Randall Larrimore were on hand to mark the occasion.
This initial phase will be focused on enhancing access to the Nanticoke River. The bulkhead will be reconstructed to stabilize the shoreline, a living shoreline will be planted, and the Seaford River Walk will be extended with fishing nooks for community use. Other new community amenities include a performance deck, boat docking facilities, and a kayak launch. This phase is anticipated to be complete by spring 2021, for public use by summer 2021.
The total project cost this phase is $1.2 million, which is funded through a mix of private and public resources including state transportation funding allocated by State Representative Daniel Short and State Senators Pettyjohn and Richardson, funding from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Longwood Foundation, Crystal Trust, Welfare Foundation, and REI.
In 2018, Chesapeake Conservancy, a nonprofit based in Annapolis, MD, partnered with the City of Seaford and the Mt. Cuba Center to purchase and donate the 1-acre waterfront parcel to the City. Chesapeake Conservancy then worked with the City in a year-long public planning and comment period process to seek community input that was incorporated into a draft master plan for the Oyster House Park.
In late February 2020, the City Council approved a master plan calling for four stages of the park’s construction. Through resources raised by Chesapeake Conservancy, construction bid documents were designed and released in the summer of 2020, and Dissen & Juhn was chosen through a competitive bidding process for the first phase of the project. Subsequent phases are planned to take place over a five-year period, with each phase focused on providing benefits for the community that can be enjoyed immediately upon completion.
The park complements a significant number of other conservation projects downstream and along the Nanticoke River, one of the few tributaries to the Chesapeake that remain unspoiled and offer an area of very high biological diversity. Through partnerships with the United States Department of Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program (REPI), The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Mt. Cuba Center, Sussex County Land Trust, Nanticoke River Watershed Conservancy, and others, Chesapeake Conservancy has helped conserve 2,700 acres in 19 projects across the corridor linking Vienna, MD, to Seaford. Significantly, these 19 projects link to other previously conserved properties and refuges, which creates 19,300 total acres of conserved land in the Nanticoke River watershed with a powerful impact on the environment.
“We are very excited this day is here-the kick-off of the first phase of the development of the Oyster House Park,” said Seaford Mayor David Genshaw. “This project features numerous components, which are important to the City of Seaford, such as giving public access to the Nanticoke River, promoting our Seaford history, driving economic revitalization to our downtown, all while promoting and protecting the environment of our Nanticoke River. Partnering with the Chesapeake Conservancy, along with Mt. Cuba has blessed our City, and we cannot thank them enough for their leadership on this project.
“Seaford is a truly unique gateway to the Nanticoke River and an ideal location for fishing and recreation,” said U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. “I’m thrilled that Seaford residents will soon have better public access to the beautiful river, which honors a rich cultural history as an important part of our state. As someone who spent a lot of time in local government doing land-use planning, I know how challenging this process can be, and I’m grateful to Mayor Grenshaw and all the community partners who’ve made this project a reality.”
“The National Park Service has worked with Chesapeake Conservancy for more than five years to document, protect, and share the importance of the Nanticoke River’s cultural and natural resources with the public. Seaford offers the public a key spot to start exploring the Nanticoke, one of the most pristine rivers in the region,” said National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office Superintendent Wendy O’Sullivan.
Chesapeake Conservancy Board Member Randall Larrimore, who grew up in the City of Seaford, said “I am thrilled that the first phase of this park is underway. It will give people a reason to go downtown and enjoy our wonderful river. This project will have an even bigger reverberating impact by inspiring visitors to help conserve the Nanticoke River and the Chesapeake Bay itself, adding to a growing movement to protect and restore 30 percent of the Chesapeake Bay watershed by 2030.”
“The Seaford Oyster House Park will stand as a powerful example of how communities can leverage conservation and public access to natural assets like the Nanticoke River in order to provide new economic opportunities like outdoor recreation and tourism, and in turn, help to transform communities themselves,” said Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn.