Pirate’s Wharf moves forward with $820K grant

Once approved by the Wicomico County Council, a $820,000 federal grant will be used to make lovely, lush Pirate’s Wharf – characterized as a jewel in the county — a relaxing and recreational park.

“We don’t intend to over-develop this place. It’s a beauty in a natural setting. Our hope would be to keep it in as much of a beautiful, natural setting to as we can,” said Steve Miller, Director of the county’s Recreation & Parks Department.

“I think that property has the potential to be a real jewel for the county. It’s something we’re really excited about,” Miller said.

The development footprint on the 340 acres will be small relative to size of the park, he said.

Money from the matching grant – meaning the county must match the federal amount using local funds – will first be used for planning and writing a master plan.

“The major factors in our grant application are our intent to provide some public water access and to provide a trail system — two priorities at the state level. The state assisted us in applying for this grant,” Miller said.

The master plan will help determine exactly what will be at Pirate’s Wharf.

Preliminary ideas are building a trail system, providing access to the water, having a soft launch for kayaks and small vessels and maybe a boat ramp if approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

County Executive Bob Culver, who has made the project one of his signature initiatives since taking office has, for some time, suggested using a portion of Pirate’s Wharf for campsites and Miller said it will be taken into consideration as intents unfold.

If the County Council agrees to accept the grant, and to the Pirate’s Wharf undertaking, it will take about four years to complete them, Miller said.

The first nine months to one year will be spent concentrating on the master plan.

Assistant County Administrative Director Weston Young said neither county officials nor County Council members want to let it sit unused.

“If we don’t have a purpose for it, let’s part with it. It was acquired with Open Space money, making it harder to part with, and it’s a beautiful property. We recently started making upgrades including putting a fence and a sign up for what’s coming,” Young said.

Miller met with a group of people who live in the area, environmentalists and those with differing viewpoints, to discuss Pirate’s Wharf and make suggestions, Young said.

“We are moving on it. We’re not doing so hastily. We put together a work group. Ultimately, we will rely on the master plan. There has been some talk about water access for kayaking.

“The group bounced around ideas.  They will take the work group suggestions but there will be time for public input and reaching out to people who live in the area and use the park. This will be a process that will greatly involve the public,” Young said.

The county had been making money on the property by leasing it for farmland, leasing woods for hunting and rent from the house that was formerly there. Originally there was a house by the water but it’s gone now.

Young said as the park is developed, a field could be placed there, with trails, plants and bushes that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

“To be able to provide access to the public will benefit our residents and visitors. We’re thrilled about it. It’s a jewel we possess. It sat there for 20 some years and it had very limited access. To me, that’s the big excitement here, that the public can really enjoy it,” Miller said.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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