(May 24, 2019) Looking to accommodate ecotourism visitors, Worcester County government has agreed to work with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program on a proposal to develop Greys Creek Nature Park on a 500-plus acre plot located just below the Delaware state line.
Tom Perlozzo, director of recreation and parks, presented a detailed timeline to the Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday.
“This includes the vision of the park, the developmental concept, the planned activities, the associated budget and funding,” he said.
Greys Creek, which encompasses 572-acres bordering Sussex County, was conveyed from the state by a memorandum of understanding in 2006.
“It has sat idle and still does at this time,” he said. “We’ve also entered into an MOU in 2014 with Maryland Coastal Bays to cooperatively manage and utilize the park on a year-round basis.”
Perlozzo said the cost to Worcester will be limited as grant funding of $188,000 is tentatively on tap through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, with that sum being matched by funds from Maryland’s Program Open Space.
“We’re in the process of completing that application,” he said. “We’ve got a written acknowledgment of $188,345 to be added to the budgeted Program Open Space amount.”
Perlozzo estimated Worcester would foot about $37,000 of the overall project costs of approximately $375,000.
“After this, we will whittle that down using staff and in-kind services to limit the expense to taxpayers,” he said.
Two public comment periods were held over the past year to give careful consideration to the concerns of residents of the roughly 1,000 homes located in a pair of adjacent subdivisions, which include Bay View Estates and Hidden Harbor.
“We made the best efforts to address those concerns and incorporate those in the proposed design of the plan,” he said.
Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said the relatively low-cost project would likely yield dividends.
“Anytime we can take advantage and get people on our waterways and teach them about the water and conservation it’s a huge plus for the county as a whole,” he said.
Noting previous parking worries expressed by Greys Creek neighbors, Commissioner Jim Bunting asked what considerations were given to those concerns.
Perlozzo said initial design plans have been amended to minimize the issue.
“That’s why we moved the general entrance to the park in another location,” he said.
Perlozzo also said the site is legally constrained by the Critical Areas Laws of Maryland, the Corps of Engineers Wetland Protection programs and Worcester County zoning and subdivision regulations.
“It’s going to be operated by the Maryland Coastal Bays, who [will] have a research center,” he said.
The center would also provide temporary housing for researchers, with the county recreation department also anticipating future outside activities.
Emphasis will be placed on sustainability while developing Greys Creek, which Perlozzo said would guide choices for building systems and materials.
The goal is to develop the rural lands to support education, recreation and preservation, he said.
Greys Creek Nature Park will also provide a wealth of passive recreation opportunities, including hiking, trail running, biking, kayaking, canoeing, birding and stand-up paddle boarding, Perlozzo said
Tentatively slated to open in June 2021, the park could add to the approximately $18 million Worcester hauls in annually from wildlife-related activities and birding recreation, Perlozzo said.