An Open Letter on Holly Beach Farm

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An ariel view of Holly Beach Farm, a unique and sensitive piece of land just south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

A.J. Metcalf/CBF Staff

Honoring a property that deserves to be restored and conserved.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed is an incredibly unique landscape, filled with beautiful edges and magnificent shorelines. The places where land and water meet are critically important to protect, which is why we, and many others, have spent decades finding ways to limit development and promote policies that reduce pollution to the Bay. It's also one of the reasons that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) received an important piece of land just to the south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in 2002. The State of Maryland and many partners were interested in protecting more than 300 waterfront acres of property from development. The complex real estate transaction that saved a portion of Holly Beach Farm from development and transferred it to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation sought to provide water quality protection, waterfowl habitat, and environmental education programs.

Over the last twenty years, with generous support from donors and like-minded organizations, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has had the privilege of stewarding the property through significant investment in maintenance, restoration, and educational programming. We have done everything we can to honor the guidance for the property while facing many challenges, including high operational costs and concerns regarding access and safety. It has been a gift. However, this property has more to give.

With growing interest in the property in the last year as part of the proposed Chesapeake National Recreation Area, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Board of Trustees evaluated our position in fall of 2021 and decided to retain ownership of Holly Beach Farm. With my arrival in January and the urging of the board, we embarked on an exploration of the history of the property, the original funding sources, its relationship to the mission of the organization, the property's immense opportunities, as well as its significant challenges. We heard growing calls for public access that, given our strict guidance for the property, we were unable to provide. While Holly Beach Farm has been a critical piece of our education programs, we believe there is a future for the property that is much bigger.

After months of conversation and consideration, this week the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Board of Trustees made the decision to seek a new steward for the property. This step marks the beginning of the process to transfer ownership—the property cannot be sold per the deed—to another steward. CBF will decide who the next owner will be in consultation with the organization that entrusted us with the property, The Conservation Fund, and the State of Maryland, which holds the conservation easement.

A key consideration in our decision-making will be the steward's ability to continue with restoration and conservation while expanding access in a way that does not further exacerbate traffic concerns in the surrounding communities. CBF also looks forward to opportunities to partner with the eventual steward and play a small role in the future of this incredible and special place through continued environmental education programming.

One of the best ways to encourage restoration and stewardship of the Bay is to enable people to experience it. Holly Beach Farm deserves to be experienced, conserved, and restored for the benefit of the Bay and the communities that call the watershed home.

Hilary Harp Falk 90x110

Hilary Harp Falk

President and CEO, CBF





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