Two prominent Lewes properties eyed for preservation

Partnership sets goal to protect nearly 120 acres
April 22, 2023

Two prominent Lewes properties may soon become permanent open space.

A partnership among the Greater Lewes Foundation, Open Space Alliance and Sussex County Land Trust has kicked off a campaign to acquire the 30-acre Fourth Street Forest in Lewes and the 89-acre Ard na Gréine property between Savannah Road and New Road just outside Lewes. The estimated cost to purchase both properties is about $18 million. 

“Living in a place as special as Lewes brings with it a unique responsibility to ensure that our time here respects the contributions of others before us and preserves the essence of Lewes for those who come after us,” said former Lewes Mayor Jim Ford, chair of the Open Space Alliance. “Preserving that sense of place — the very air, water and land that defines Lewes — is at the heart of that responsibility.”

Both parcels are in close proximity to Canary Creek. The Ard na Gréine property is just outside city limits but could be annexed in the future. It can be accessed via Donovan Road from Savannah Road. It also borders the Lewes-to-Georgetown Trail. The property has been in the current owner’s family for several generations. It was the family that approached the Sussex County Land Trust about preservation, said Mark Chura, SCLT executive director. 

The Fourth Street Forest has long been discussed by Lewes residents who would like to see it protected. It sits in the heart of western Lewes and is surrounded by residential development, and the Harbor Healthcare nursing and rehabilitation facility. 

The Greater Lewes Foundation has a goal to raise the funds needed to complete the purchases by the end of 2024. The estimated costs are $8 million for the Fourth Street Forest and $8.5 million for Ard na Gréine. Built into the budget are an additional $1.5 million for future expenses to maintain the preserves and $300,000 in fund development expenses. 

Projected funding is anticipated to come from a variety of public and private sources. For Ard na Gréine Preserve, the Greater Lewes Foundation estimates $2.5 million from the Delaware Open Space Council, $2.25 million in public funding, $1.5 million from Delaware foundations, $1 million from the Sussex County Land Trust, $1 million from conservation groups and $750,000 in private donations. Private donations are a much larger part of the Fourth Street Preserve budget, as $3.2 million will be raised from private donors. Greater Lewes Foundation also estimates $2 million in public funding, $1.5 million from Delaware foundations, $1 million from conservation groups, $1 million in federal funding and $600,000 from the Delaware General Assembly. 

“It is no small task to raise this amount of money, but we’re very excited with the opportunity that’s been presented to us,” Chura said. “Like a lot of land-acquisition initiatives, it requires the partnership of many folks to make it happen. Nobody had $18 million to do it, so you need partners.” 

The goal is to keep each property preserved in perpetuity, with limited public access. Chura said it’s likely each preserve will have trails for walking and possibly trailheads. No other major improvements would be made, he said, adding there may be an opportunity for reforestation at Ard na Gréine Preserve. 

The Greater Lewes Foundation would be the purchaser of the Fourth Street Preserve, but the City of Lewes could eventually take ownership. For Ard na Gréine Preserve, Sussex County Land Trust will be the property owner if the deal is completed. 

Several small community meetings are planned to educate the community and solicit donations. For more information, contact Open Space Alliance Campaign Manager Pam Costanzi at 302-644-0107.


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