SNOW HILL – Ilia Fehrer, one of the first to champion the environment in Worcester County, will be honored with a park or conservation area named after her.
Fehrer was instrumental in the creation of Assateague Island state and national parks, the preservation of tens of thousands of wild acres, the effort to designate the Pocomoke River a “Wild and Scenic River,” and the prevention of a dam on Nassawango Creek. She founded the Committee to Preserve Assateague Island, which later became Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT), to save the barrier island from development.
She shared the Maryland Coastal Bays Program’s (MCBP) first Golden Osprey Award, with her husband Joe, and received the 2003 Ellen Fraites Wagner Award from the Chesapeake Bay Trust for protecting the bay and its tributary waterways.
Comprehensive Planning Director Sandy Coyman presented the idea of naming park after the environmental steward to the County Commissioners on Tuesday. Worcester is looking at 14 different properties with an eye toward purchasing land to be named for the recently deceased Fehrer for preservation and passive recreation.
The commissioners gave the green light to the project.
“I think this is a very good project,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs.
“It’s well deserving,” Commission President Virgil Shockley said after the meeting. “If we can find, with the permission of the family, a piece of property I think she would appreciate, she should be recognized for her contribution toward preserving Worcester County.”
ACT President Jim Rapp said it’s a great idea.
“Fantastic. No one is more worthy,” said Rapp. “I’m thrilled. Parks are for celebrating local heroes.”
Staff is in the early stages of looking at properties, all in private hands. None of the owners have been contacted and other sites are possible, according to Coyman.
The land identified as potential parks or conservation areas all have significant water access or are home to threatened or endangered plants or both, while other sites are adjacent to currently protected land. Coyman did not identify any of the sites.
There are several possible funding sources for the acquisition of the park, but Program Open Space (POS) funds will probably not be a part of that equation.
“I don’t think that money is going to be available to be part of the project,” said Chief County Administrator Gerry Mason, who said the POS funds are assigned for this year.