County extends CIB lease for James Farm preserve

The Sussex County Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to extend their lease of the James Farm Ecological Preserve to the Center for the Inland Bays.

The 150-acre property, located on Cedar Neck Road just outside of Ocean View, offers visitors the change to enjoy seven different distinct habitats, walking trails and beach.

The CIB first leased James Farm in 1998, and in 2014 a Master Plan was completed, detailing specific improvements to be constructed at the site, to accommodate the expansive growth in site visitation being experienced.

“As those ocean beaches fill up more and more, people are looking for a quieter way to experience the water and nature and they do come to the farm,” said CIB Executive Director Chris Bason.

The centerpiece of the farm however, said Bason, is the educational piece.

“This last full school season we were able to educate a record 1,300 seventh- and eighth-graders from the Indian River School District. It was our best year ever and we feel really good about that.”

The design, engineering, and permitting work for the first phase of the project was completed last month, and the CIB is actively seeking funding for construction.

Bason said the first phase would focus on the “gateway entry to the farm.”

“Right now parking is inadequate. Entryway and exit from the farm is unsafe because we’ve got so many more people coming in. So, this first phase of improvements will create a new parking area which can handle up to 27 cars. Plus, we’ll have our own special spots for school buses.”

The CIB is pursing joint fundraising opportunities — working with various public and private entities.

“We’ve also applied for a $500,000 grant from the Longwood Foundation and we expect to be hearing back from them fairly soon.”

He added the CIB is working to increase visitor and private donations.

Council voted 5-0 to approve a 20-year term occupancy agreement, with automatic renewal for two subsequent five-year terms is being made. The CIB will pay the County $1 each year.

Council also voted unanimously to submit a request to DNREC’s Outdoor Recreation, Parts and Trails program for a 50 percent matching grant for $20,0000 to finance Phase I.

In other County news:

• County Council unanimously approved a request to rename the portion of land in Summertime Park north of Fenwick Island “Oliver’s Point” after Oliver W. Cropper.

This is a unique request,” said County Administrator Todd Lawson. “Mr. Cropper spent his life supporting the Fenwick Island Lighthouse and adjoining lighthouse keepers’ houses. Mr. Cropper died in 2011 and in recognition of his services, a portion of land in Summertime Park that extends into Assawoman Bay is being named ‘Oliver’s Point’ in his honor.”

Lawson said the U.S. Board of Geographic Names requires a person to be deceased at least five years before an area can be named in their honor, and also requires the approval of the local jurisdiction before a geographic area can be renamed.

In 2007, the State Senate passed a Joint Resolution honoring Cropper and approving the installation of a suitable state marker identifying Oliver’s Point.

• Bud Rickards retired from the Sussex County Board of Adjustment after spending five years and nine months serving the county.

Cole nominated local custom builder Bruce Mears, to serve as Rickards’ replacement, Lawson said he would follow up with standard questions and place his public interview on a future council agenda.