(Jan. 24, 2014) The Worcester County Commissioners approved a management plan for property on Ayres Creek formerly owned by The Adkins Company of Berlin.
They also renamed the property after Ilia Fehrer, a well known local conservationist and former Planning Commission member.
“Considering the tireless efforts of Mrs. Feherer 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,” wrote Ed Tudor, director of the Department of Development Review and Permitting, in his memo to the commissioners.
The Ilia Fehrer Nature Preserve is intended to provide passive recreation opportunities and public access. A naming ceremony will be held, but no date has been determined yet.
No county funds were used to purchase the 441-acre property along Ayres Creek between Sinepuxent Road and Assateague Road. It was purchased with a $1.3 federal grant from the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, $500,000 from Program Open Space and an $875,000 in-kind donation from The Adkins Company.
On Feb. 1, 2011, the county commissioners voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program to provide for the restoration and management of the property. Part of that agreement stipulated the preparation of a management plan for the property.
The Management Plan Committee had members from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Worcester County Department of Recreation and Parks, Worcester County Department of Development Review and Permitting, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and the Maryland Department of the Environment and local residents.
According to Dave Wilson, executive director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, the management plan calls for harvest of loblolly pines, restoration of hydrology, reforestation and providing public access.
“We want to put nature trails on it, and some horse trails,” Wilson told the commissioners. “Someday, we’d like to have deer hunting on it.”
Acquisition of the property protects one of the largest, most ecologically valuable, unprotected parcels in the Ayres Creek area and its management will be conducted in a manner to maintain those characteristics, according to the plan.
“It’s a significant piece of property,” Wilson said. “We’re excited to be moving forward.”
Because the preserve is divided into two adjoining parcels with minimal access between them, each parcel will be treated individually and managed in a different manner.
The eastern portion, which is accessed from Sinepuxent Road and has shoreline along Ayres Creek, will receive no active restoration. Its logging roads can provide access to the interior for such recreational uses as bird watching and hiking. Aproximately 81 acres of loblollies will be restored. That restoration, which involves cutting the loblollies and replanting the areas with Atlantic white cedar or hardwoods, is expected to take a few years.
The property’s western portion, which has access to Assateague Road, has more developed trails used by horseback riders, hikers and non-motorized trail bikers. Procedures regarding trail maintenance will be developed.