BERLIN – The Assateague Island Alliance has received a $50,000 matching grant to further its efforts to keep human and pet food inaccessible to wild horses.
Last month, the Maryland Heritage Area Authority (MHAA) awarded the Assateague Island Alliance (AIA) – the friends group that supports Assateague Island National Seashore – a $50,000 matching grant for its “A Fed Horse is a Dead Horse” campaign, which was launched last October after a wild horse known as Chama Wingapo died after eating a large amount of dog food.
Ashlie Kozlowski, outreach coordinator for AIA, said the campaign is meant to prevent Assateague’s wild horses from accessing food campers bring into the park and to de-habituate the horses from associating humans as a food source.
“Right now we are getting the message out and laying the framework for changing behaviors,” she said.
While the nonprofit has already begun working with the national park to share the message that “a fed horse is a dead horse” through educational materials and weekly programs, Kozlowski said the $50,000 matching grant will be used to install 167 wildlife-proof picnic tables by next Memorial Day.
“Believe it or not, we have 167 tables in the Maryland district that need to be replaced,” she said, “and materials for each table cost around $700 each.”
Each year, the MHAA – which oversees Maryland’s system of locally administered Heritage Areas – awards millions of dollars to fund heritage tourism projects and activities. This year, the agency awarded 114 matching grants totaling nearly $5 million to local jurisdictions, heritage tourism organizations and Maryland nonprofits, including AIA.
“Basically, we needed to find a funding source and knew MHAA offered grants that worked to improve experiences for visitors in Maryland,” she said, “so we thought it would be a perfect fit to request funding from them.”
Kozlowski said AIA and its partners at the national park were excited to receive the $50,000 grant.
“Everyone was so excited about this grant,” she said. “It was a win for everyone.”
Kozlowski said AIA plans to match the $50,000 grant with a $10,000 grant the nonprofit received from Eastern National in April, as well as with monetary and in-kind contributions from the National Park Service, volunteer groups and the like.
“It’s a miracle it’s all coming about perfectly,” she said. “We are now fully funded to move forward with the picnic tables.”
Kozlowski said the next step in the planning process is to work with the Youth Conservation Corps to construct the wildlife-proof tables.
“Now comes the fun park of spending the money and making the project successful,” she said.
The nonprofit was one of eight organizations in the tri-county region to receive a grant from the MHAA this year. Other recipients include the City of Salisbury, Lower Shore Land Trust, Delmarva Discover Center and Museum, Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Committee, Allen Historical Society, Julia A. Purnell Museum and Rackliffe House Trust.
For more information on this year’s grant recipients, visit http://planning.maryland.gov/Documents/Press/2018-0712-FY2019-MHAA-Grantees.pdf.
For more information on the “A Fed Horse is a Dead Horse” campaign, or to support the initiative, visit https://www.gofundme.com/AIA-a-fed-horse-is-a-dead-horse.