State Approves Coastal Bays Easement

BERLIN – A significant chunk of waterfront property in Worcester County was preserved from future development this week with the state Board of Public Works approval of a 232-acre conservation easement purchase of a site near Public Landing through Program Open Space.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley on Wednesday announced the three-member Board of Public Works on which he serves approved the purchase of the conservation easement on the 232-acre tract in the coastal bays watershed in Worcester County near Public Landing. The board approved the sale of the vast conservation easement a private entity, Public Landing LLC, from the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), although the cost of the transaction has not been made public.

As a result, the conservation easement will permanently protect the 232 unimproved acres of wetlands, forest and farmland from future development. All in all, the coastal bays watershed includes roughly 153,000 acres, of which thousands of acres have been protected through conservation easements and other measures in recent years. The shallow bays extend landward from Ocean City and Assateague Island and provide habitat for a complex ecosystem of fish and wildlife.

“This addition to our expansive coastal bays watershed will not only contribute to the pristine natural beauty of the Eastern Shore, but help safeguard its diverse wildlife habitat and water quality,” said O’Malley on Wednesday. “Through projects like this, Program Open Space is preserving our precious natural areas for future generations of Marylanders to cherish and enjoy.”

The area is adjacent to Public Landing County Park, which has a boat ramp, pavilion and small marina. The property has frontage on Scarboro Creek and a view of the Chincoteague Bay. The property is a high priority conservation acquisition under Maryland’s Program Open Space Stateside Targeting System, with an ecological ranking score of 83. The ecologically based targeting approach was developed in 2007 under Governor O’Malley’s initiative to ensure the state is protecting the most strategically important landscapes.

Maryland Coastal Bays Program Executive Drector Dave Wilson said yesterday the acquisition of the 232-acre tract this week represents another important link in the effort to preserve waterfront property in Worcester County from future development.

“This is one of the most beautiful properties in the coastal bays,” he said. “The conservation easement will ensure it will be protected in the future.”