Delaware Public Media

Nanticoke land purchase will preserve biodiversity

Aug 9, 2016

State and federal officials teamed up to buy a piece of land along the Nanticoke River in Sussex County.

Biodiversity along the Nanticoke River spawns from its ancient geological formations. The river is home to at least five freshwater mussel species, 10 to 12 dragonfly species and the Atlantic Sturgeon, an endangered species of fish.

The State of Delaware, the Chesapeake Conservancy and the U.S. Navy hope to maintain this diversity by purchasing 48 acres of woodlands along Cod Creek — a tributary of the Nanticoke River in Laurel. Chesapeake Conservancy CEO and president Joel Dunn said the purchase and future use of the area will fuel tourism and economic development.

“This whole area is a high priority because it has high biodiversity,” Dunn said. “It’s one of the highest areas for plant diversity on the Delmarva Peninsula, and animal diversity, which is great. And it’s a priority for kayakers, canoers, bass fishermen, people that like to recreate outdoors.”

Dunn said the partnership is an excellent example of his group’s commitment to protecting cultural and natural resources for future generations.

The Cod Creek property was purchased for over $206,000: This includes $58,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program, roughly $69,000 in state funds from Delaware’s Open Space Program and $80,000 in private funds from the Chesapeake Conservancy.

“The Nanticoke River is a beautiful river with lots of natural habitat still intact and in place,” Dunn said. “The John Smith trail comes right up the river so people recreate on this river a lot, whether they’re fishing like the six young kids I can see in the distance, or the kayakers on the other side of the park here. It’s a wonderful place to get outside and get in touch with nature.” 

Sen. Chris Coons recalled growing up as a Boy Scout and attending camp along the Nanticoke River. He said this purchase is the best path forward in conserving some of Delaware's natural landscape.

"It's got an amazing and rich history," Coons said.

The purchase of the land will allow state and federal officials to look at more opportunities for public access to it. DNREC Secretary David Small said possible plans include a new trail and more hunting opportunities.

“So all of those things are being examined and we hope we will be able to make it fully available to the public in the not-too-distant future,” Small said.