Pirate’s Wharf construction enters new phase

Infused with $1.27 million from the state’s Program Open Space coffers and $844,300 from the National Park Service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund, final engineering and initial construction of the new Pirate’s Wharf Park near Quantico can now begin in earnest.

The project will include trails, a boat launch and landing, a fishing pier, an observation deck, parking, landscaping and a natural playground.

Then-County Executive Bob Culver, who lived in nearby Whitehaven, was a huge proponent of developing the 340-acre site into a park. Citing his enthusiasm for the concept, the Wicomico County Council voted to dedicate a future boat ramp at the Wicomico River site in honor of the executive, who died in July.

Culver formed a work group three years ago to set priorities for the site’s future development. The architectural firm of Davis, Bowen & Friedel in Salisbury has presented plans. The first phase focuses on the smaller portion of the parcel that lies on the southeastern side of Whitehaven Road, which is also the waterfront side.

The 225-acre northwestern portion of the property is and will remain mostly forested, as it is a state-designated critical area wetlands and will remain untouched.

A system of trails continues to be used recreationally by mountain bikers, hikers and walkers. Phase 1 will add trailhead parking across Whitehaven Road adjacent to the trails, further minimizing disruption of the forest.

The plan calls for a system of trails across the Phase 1 property to connect wetlands, pond, shoreline and event areas situated near the entrance road, all of which are designed to create sightlines and highlight the natural beauty of the property, Wigley said.

The riverbank will remain a living shoreline that preserves existing shoreline, he said, with minimal fortifications near a proposed boat ramp at the southern end of the project. A separate “soft launch” area will be developed nearby for canoes, kayaks and other small vessels.

All shoreline and boat launch features are driven by the need to keep recreational boats and fishing activities separated from barges and other commercial river traffic.

Near the entrance road, a 1,500-square-foot event pavilion, archway with comfort stations, space for informational brochures and ample parking with overflow areas will transform the broad lawn area into a welcoming venue for events large and small.

Phase 2 is tentatively planned to expand the shoreline trail, create additional observation deck areas and parking capacity, double the pavilion area to 3,000 square feet and add several smaller pavilions to accommodate smaller parties or outings.

Last month, county officials and volunteers gathered at the Pirate’s Wharf property for a tree planting.

The landscape stock trees that were planted stand between 5-12 feet tall.

“These trees are a few years old,” said Tyler Walston, Environmental Planner for Wicomico County Planning and Zoning. “The hope is that they will have a head start and grow to be showpiece trees near areas of interest.”

Phase 1 of the project is slated to begin this winter. Officials remain hopeful that the park will open to the public in spring 2021.

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