James Farm Ecological Preserve Master Plan
The James Farm Ecological Preserve is an important resource for the Center and the community at large. But despite the critical nature of the Preserve, it faces challenges. When originally developed in 1998, its facilities were installed piecemeal and without foresight of Sussex County’s forthcoming growth in population. As the Preserve’s popularity increased and its programs expanded, the need to plan for increased visitation while protecting its ecosystems became evident.
So, the Center embarked on the development of a holistic plan that would address the needs of Preserve users and collectively envision its future. The Center and Sussex County sought input and ideas from key stakeholders of the Center and the Preserve, including staff, elected officials, community leaders, educators, volunteers, donors, and other community members. The resulting master plan, finalized in 2014, addresses enhancements to better serve residents and visitors of Delaware while protecting the Preserve’s ecosystems and enhancing education and outreach opportunities.
Implementation is being conducted in two phases:
Implementation of the Master Plan began in 2017 with Phase One, which focused on safer access and improved outdoor experiences for Preserve users. Infrastructure enhancements included:
- A DelDOT-approved parking lot entrance and driveway to safely accommodate increased vehicle traffic.
- Expanded parking facilities to increase parking capacity from 8 to 27 cars.
- Designated school bus parking for safe student loading and unloading.
- A multi-purpose event lawn to accommodate greater attendance at community events and provide open space for public recreation.
With generous support from Sussex County, the Outdoor Recreation, Parks, and Trails (ORPT) program, Community Transportation Funds, and private donations, the Center successfully secured all necessary funding and Phase One was completed in the spring of 2019.
Phase Two of the Master Plan focuses on enhancing the Preserve’s infrastructure to better accommodate activities associated with environmental education, restoration, research, and community recreation. The design, engineering, and permitting process for these enhancements is currently underway and construction is set to begin in May 2021.
The vision for the proposed infrastructure is that it be as unique and appealing as the diversity of the ecosystems of the Preserve. Every function and aesthetic, down to the signage and wayfinding system, will realize this vision. Structural designs will hold true to the agricultural heritage of the property and the region, making it a truly special place for Sussex County.
Phase Two includes the following enhancements:
The Campus Area
- Three-season environmental education building with capacity for up to 70 individuals, equipped with electricity, presentation capabilities, counter space, and sinks for lab activities.
- ADA-accessible restroom facility.
- Amphitheater seating for 70 individuals to serve as an outdoor classroom.
- New maintenance building with large equipment storage and a fully-equipped workshop.
- Habitat restoration staging area.
- Ecotour concessionaire storage facility.
- Trail System
- Realignment of the Red Trail to address stressors on ecosystems and create a more immersive natural experience for visitors by diverting them away from neighboring residential and commercial properties.
- Boardwalk system extension and replacement.
- Aesthetically and structurally integrated signage and wayfinding system.
- New gateway signage.
- Updated and expanded interpretive signage placed in 18 locations around the Preserve to educate users about its ecosystems and environmental processes.
Want to learn more about this project and its impact? Check out the resources below!
In the News
- Inland Bays Center Taking James Farm to Next Level by the Cape Gazette
- Grants to Transform James Farm Ecological Preserve by the Cape Gazette
- Transformation of James Farm Ecological Preserve Moves Forward by Delaware Public Media
- Transformation Underway at the James Farm Ecological Preserve by WRDE Coast TV
- Grant Awards to Transform the James Farm Ecological Preserve by Delaware Business Times
- Recent Grant Awards Will Transform James Farm Ecological Preserve by Sussex Living