Outdoors enthusiasts soon will have another 750 acres of preserved land to explore.
Hunters, anglers, hikers and nature lovers soon will have the chance to explore another piece of Kent Count property preserved through the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
Ceremonies marking the occasion were held Wednesday afternoon at the Vance Morris Tract, a 747-acre parcel adjacent to the Ted Harvey Wildlife Area, north of Bowers Beach Road.
Members of the Morris family, including owner Bill Morris, his wife, Gerry, and son Josh, as well as DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara, Sen. Chris Coons, (D-Del.) and Rep. John Carney, (D-Del.) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Steve Guertin were on hand to celebrate the event.
The ceremony also recognized that more than 2,000 acres of land either held privately or publicly accessible statewide now are protected from development.
Funds for the acquisitions were provided via $2 million in grants from the FWS and more than $4 million in public and private matching funds from a number of organizations including the Mt. Cuba Center, the Delaware chapter of the Nature Conservancy, Delaware Wild Lands and Ducks Unlimited.
The land had been used as a farm since the late Vance and Edith Morris purchased it in 1964.
“The Morris family has had a long history of conservation and good stewardship of the land,” said David E. Saveikis, director of the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife. “They wanted to see this land conserved for the people of Delaware.”
Vance Morris was a Dover insurance salesman until he gave up that business to become a retriever trainer. In addition to farming the land known as the Morris Tract, he owned a charter boat fleet that operated out of Bowers.
Bill Morris said he’d been approached many times by developers during the real estate boom who wanted to build houses on it, but turned down all offers.
“That was not how we wanted to go,” Morris said. His parents, he added, “... would have been pleased with the direction we’ve gone with the farm.”
The tract adds to lands conserved under the Delaware Bayshore Initiative, which seeks to protect Delaware’s shoreline as a natural habitat for numerous species, including migratory birds, and undeveloped recreational areas.
“It’s a real plus; it was a great opportunity to partner with the state and a good opportunity to preserve this land,” said Josh Morris, who still lives near the entrance to the tract. “That’s always been important to my family.
“It’s very comforting to know this land will stay as it is.”
The site will provide opportunities for hunting, fishing, birding, watching wildlife, nature study and photography. The tract contains 388 acres of farmland, 315 acres of wetlands and 38 acres of upland forest.
However, outdoor enthusiasts should not make immediate plans to use the site, Saveikis said.
“There likely will be limited access this calendar year, but maximizing its full potential will take several years,” he said.
The problem is a financial one, Saveikis said – there simply isn’t enough money in the current state budget, which ends June 30.
“We need to develop a master plan and we don’t want to do that haphazardly,” he said. “We don’t have sufficient revenue to do it in three months.”