After more than two decades of ownership, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is proposing to transfer its portion of Holly Beach Farm in Anne Arundel County to Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Holly Beach Farm is a unique and sensitive natural resource of significant ecological value to the Chesapeake Bay. With a freshwater pond adjacent to the brackish Bay, CBF’s 293-acre portion of the waterfront farm just south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is an important staging and wintering area for migratory waterfowl as well as a nesting site for herons and bald eagles.
“Over the last twenty years, with generous support from donors and like-minded organizations, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has had the privilege of stewarding its part of Holly Beach Farm through significant investment in maintenance, restoration, and educational programming. We are so pleased that the State of Maryland has stepped forward with its tremendous resources to continue the conservation and management of this special natural area,” said Hilary Harp Falk, CBF’s President and CEO.
In 2002, the waterfront parcel was transferred to CBF for conservation and limited environmental education. Since then, CBF and its partners have conducted large-scale restoration of the site’s previously agricultural land and eroding shorelines.
“While we have done everything we can to reforest the agricultural lands, restore the eroding shorelines, and educate the next generation at the site, our expertise lies outside long-term management of conserved lands and it is time for a new steward. This incredible jewel on the shores of the Bay has so much more to give,” continued Hilary Harp Falk.
In October, CBF issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFI) seeking a new steward with a proven ability to manage conserved lands in a way that honors the intent of the original funders and continues conservation efforts while respecting the sensitivity of the property’s neighbors.
“As an original funder, the current Conservation Easement holder, and with a track record of land conservation and management, DNR was the unparalleled choice,” said Hilary Harp Falk.
Pending approval of the Maryland Board of Public Works, Maryland DNR will take possession in a no-fee transfer of the nearly 300 waterfront acres.
“Thank you to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for choosing Maryland as the steward for this property,” said Maryland DNR Secretary Josh Kurtz. “Holly Beach Farm represents a fantastic opportunity to enable waterfront access and wildlife viewing in Anne Arundel County. At the same time, the location near the Bay Bridge presents challenges that the agency intends to address by working closely with nearby residential communities. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the state to acquire an iconic property for public benefit and ensure its natural beauty is protected.”
If approved, DNR plans to undertake further restoration efforts at Holly Beach to protect the sensitive features on the mostly undeveloped peninsula. The long-term plan for the property will be developed in a public process with input from neighboring landowners and other interested groups and individuals.
“We envision providing the public, in a scaled and prescriptive manner, a chance to experience Holly Beach in a way that teaches about and protects the unique habitats and natural communities on this remarkable peninsula,” said Paul Peditto, DNR’s Assistant Secretary of Land Resources.