Delaware Center for the Inland Bays broke ground Nov. 16 on a $375,000 improvement project at James Farm Ecological Preserve in Ocean View.
The improvements will add a new, wider entryway leading to a teardrop-design roundabout with parking for 27 cars and a parking area for school buses. Center for the Inland Bays Director Chris Bason said the roundabout will have a sidewalk and a bioretention area. He said an existing parking area across the street will remain, but there will be new crosswalks to improve safety for pedestrians. The project will also feature improved trails around the preserve.
The James Farm Ecological Preserve was donated to Sussex County by the James family in 1992.
“The farm is a real special place,” Bason said. “When we started managing this property in 1998, we had no idea the amount of use and amount of love that would be poured into this place. Some years ago, we realized we needed to improve the James Farm to accommodate all the new people that wanted to enjoy it.”
Construction was expected to start Monday, Nov. 26.
Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson said, “This is a very, very unique piece of property in a very unique location.” He said the unique nature of the property has led to the need for investment in the property.
Bason said the center solicited input from users to help design the improvements. The parking area is just the first phase of the center’s plans; Bason said Phase 2 of the project will be an enclosed education facility and improvements to the existing buildings. He said the center is stepping up its programming to attract student groups; Basin said currently, the preserve hosts 100,000 per year, but the center’s goal is to double that to 200,000 students annually.