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James Farm Docent Program

Project Status: Current / Annual

The James Farm Ecological Preserve (Preserve) is a 150-acre property on the Indian River Bay, owned by Sussex County and managed by the Center. Its diverse habitats, including maritime forest, salt marsh, and meadows, and a variety of outdoor recreation areas (e.g., over 3 miles of trails, 3 wildlife viewing stations, a boardwalk beach crossing) attract approximately 10,000 people annually. In response to the growing number of visitations each year, the James Farm Master Plan was developed to provide a holistic approach to protecting the Preserve’s valuable ecosystems while enhancing environmental education and outdoor experiences for its visitors. The James Farm Docent Program started as an initiative of the Master Plan to help maintain and increase visitor engagement during the peak visitation season (May-August).

What’s it like to be a Docent?

The James Farm Docent Program plays a key role in helping to encourage visitors of the Preserve to immerse themselves in its beautiful habitats. Stationed at information tables, Docents will greet visitors, answer questions, and offer resources to the public. Docents will also share the history and mission of the James family’s farm.

Docent Program Goals:

  • Encourage visitors to engage with the habitats, wildlife, and Bays at the Preserve 
  • Raise public awareness of the unique partnership between Sussex County and the Center
  • Share the history and mission of the James family Farm and Preserve
  • Raise donor funds for Preserve maintenance and Master Plan
  • Explain the purpose and changes due to the James Farm Master Plan
  • Promote visitor engagement with the Bays and the Center


By recording interactions with visitors, Docents also provide valuable information that is used to help meet the Center’s annual outreach and education goals and plan future efforts.

Get Involved

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Center is launching a virtual James Farm Docent Program Training to kick-start preparations for this season*. If you would like to participate, we invite you to follow the easy steps below. Even if the James Farm Docent Program is not currently underway, you will be added to the mailing list and receive additional information prior to the next season.Thank you for your interest and support. We hope to see you soon!

*All Center survey activities are postponed until at least June 1st or until health and safety risks related to COVID-19 are resolved.

STEP 1: Watch the Virtual James Farm Docent Program Training (Coming Soon!)


STEP 2: Review the Frequently Ask Questions for the James Farm Docent Program

When do I fill the docent sign-in sheet?

The docent sign-in sheet must be filled out during each shift. This helps us to accurately report volunteer hours to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and estimate how many people are visiting the James Farm Ecological Preserve during these times.

When do I turn-in the docent sign-in sheet?

The docent sign-in sheet should be turned-in no later than 2 business days after working a shift.

Are dogs allowed in the Preserve?

Dogs are required to remain on-leash at all times at the Preserve. Feel free to politely remind visitors of this rule, however, we do not expect you to handle confrontations. If a visitor is causing any disturbances and/or not following Preserve rules, please contact the Sussex County Sheriff (governing authority for the property). Their non-emergency number is 302-855-7830.

What do I need to bring?

Wear clothes that are comfortable for the  outdoors. Don’t forget to check the weather and dress appropriately! It is strongly advised to pack water, sunscreen, and bug spray. A camera to take photos is always welcome!

How should I handle difficult questions?

Studying our James Farm Ecological Preserve resources listed below will help you to feel prepared to answer visitor questions. For more detailed information about the Center (e.g., projects, staff, events, etc.) we invite you to visit the other pages on our website. If you don’t feel comfortable answering particular questions, simply encourage people to contact us via phone or email (contact information will be provided to all Docents).

How should I handle difficult situations?

Please do not put yourself in any danger. If a visitor is causing disturbances and/or not following Preserve’s rules, contact the Sussex County Sheriff (governing authority for the property). Their non-emergency number is 302-855-7830. In the event of an emergency, please call 911.

What happens if inclement weather occurs?

Docents are not required to continue a shift during inclement weather – your safety is the #1 priority!

What should I do if I can't make a shift?

If you cannot make a shift, please do the following: 1) Reach out to a fellow Docent to see if they can cover your shift – emails will be shared between program participants and 2) Notify the Center’s Communication Specialist, Nivette Perez-Perez (nperezperez@inlandbays.org or 302-226-8105×109).

Who should I call in case of an emergency?

Call 911 and provide the Preserve’s address (30048 Cedar Neck Road, Ocean View, DE). If someone is injured, be sure to let emergency services know where the individual is located and that the trails may impact their ability to reach them easily.

STEP 3: Determine which days and shifts work best for you

Monday to Sunday from:

8:00 am – 10:30 am


                            10:30 am – 1:00 pm 

STEP 4: Complete the sign-up form

STEP 5: Fill the 2020 Volunteer Liability Waiver*

Volunteer Waiver-Digital App

*Required for each participating individual. It should be completed prior to your first shift date. Please note: Individuals under the age of 18 must have an adult chaperone on-hand at all times.

STEP 6: Let’s Explore the James Farm Ecological Preserve!

Thank you for your support. If you would like more information about other Center volunteer opportunities, please complete our Volunteer Application. Another way to support our mission is by donating HERE!

Docent Resources/Documents