Fehrer Nature Preserve Eyed For Ayers Creek Land

SNOW HILL — The Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) has submitted a management plan to Worcester County for a 441-acre property located along Ayers Creek that it hopes to name after a local conservationist.

MCBP will now begin large-scale restoration of the property, which has been named the “Ilia Fehrer Nature Preserve” in honor of a popular local conservationist and former Planning Commission member.

“What we would like to do with the property is a few things,” said Dave Wilson, executive director of MCBP. “We want to put some nature trails on it, put some horse trails on it and restore the hydrology.”

The county reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with MCBP back in February of 2011 to restore and manage the parcel, which runs between Sinepuxent and Assateague roads. As part of the management plan, MCBP will be diving into restoration efforts over the next few years.

“Essentially, the plan calls for the harvest of portions of the property in loblolly monoculture, restoration of hydrology, reforestation,” wrote Wilson in a letter to the commission, “and providing public access. No funds are requested from the county in management activities.”

MCBP hopes to find most of the funding they need to restore the land through grants. They will also see a roughly $15,000 return when portions of the land are cut for pulp. The $15,000 will be put towards off-setting other costs, which could be significant.

“The water control structure and installation is expected to cost approximately $2,000. Ground preparation and tree planting is expected to cost $25,000 to $50,000,” wrote Wilson, “depending on tree species and planting density. We anticipate planting hardwoods and dense areas of Atlantic white cedar depending on grant funding and water retention subsequent to ditch plugging.”

Once restoration has progressed, MCBP wants to open the area for public use. The land should give people an idea of the benefits of conservation in preserving natural landscapes.

“The use of this property for passive recreation is consistent,” wrote Wilson, “with the Maryland Coastal Bays Policy Committee’s desire to create a passive recreation, conservation-oriented nature preserve in the coastal area.”

In keeping with that the property has been named after Ilia Fehrer. Fehrer’s work on Worcester’s Planning Commission and in general conservation is well respected in the county and both the commissioners and Director of Development Review and Permitting Ed Tudor praised MCBP for the recognition.

“Considering the tireless efforts of Mrs. Fehrer to raise environmental awareness in general, and to protect our precious natural areas, including Assateague Island, at a time when those ideas did not necessarily receive the attention they do today, I think such recognition is definitely appropriate,” Tudor wrote.

Wilson underlined the importance of protecting the Ilia Fehrer Nature Preserve into the future as it is a “major part of the headwaters of both Ayers and Trappe creeks,” and runoff on the property can feed into Newport Bay.

“This restoration is expected to take a number of years to restore ecological function and will eventually further the ecological importance of the property while improving water quality for Newport Bay,” Wilson said.

Once restoration has made some progress, Wilson said that his organization might look at allowing some kind of tightly controlled hunting on the property.