Natural Land Preserved, Bethany Beach, DE

BETHANY BEACH, DELAWARE: The purchase of the largest parcel of undeveloped land within the Town of Bethany Beach, the 26-acre Natter property along Route 26, was announced today by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Town of Bethany Beach, the public/private partnership that put together the important acquisition.

The land, which was purchased from the heirs of Annie K. Natter, will be used for natural habitat conservation, environmental education and passive recreation. The property consists primarily of wetlands, with three acres of partially-forested uplands.

The $755,000 acquisition was negotiated by TPL, with funding made possible by the state Division of Parks and Recreation, a National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Town of Bethany Beach. The Division contributed a $150,000 local grant from its Land and Water Conservation Trust Fund and worked with TPL to secure the $500,000 coastal wetlands conservation grant. Bethany Beach contributed $105,000.

Protection of the site, which is located in the Inland Bays State Resource Area, will complement more than 6,100 acres of nearby conservation lands, including Fenwick Island State Park and Assawoman Wildlife Area, both less than three miles to the south and southwest; Delaware Seashore State Park, approximately a mile to the north; and Holts Landing State Park, approximately 4.5 miles to the northwest.

The property’s northern boundary is defined by the Bethany Loop Canal and a portion of the southern shoreline of Salt Pond. Just to the west are 4.5 acres of tidal emergent wetlands owned by DNREC.

Conservation of the marshes and forested uplands of the Natter property will provide an important link and buffer for the network of wetlands of the Inland Bays, part of one of the fastest growing regions of the state.

The Bethany Beach Town Council, which identified the property as a high priority for protection several years ago, but was unable to put together the necessary funding for the acquisition, asked the Trust for Public Land for assistance in trying to negotiate an option to buy. TPL, a national nonprofit land conservation organization, used its legal, technical and real estate expertise to acquire the property on behalf of the funding partners.

“The State of Delaware is committed to continuing to work through partnerships like this to leverage our conservation trust fund dollars so we can realize our goals of protecting the state’s biological diversity – our living resources; preserving valuable wildlife habitat; improving our water quality; and providing environmental education and recreation, while steering development into more appropriate places,” said DNREC Secretary Nicholas A. DiPasquale.

“TPL is pleased to have been able to bring together federal, state and local partners and help secure the funding necessary to protect this valuable resource within the Inland Bays region,” said Lynda Frost, TPL project manager, who negotiated the acquisition.

According to Bethany Mayor Joseph F. McHugh, “This project to protect and preserve open space and wetlands is very important to our Town. The acquisition will help us maintain the quality of life in Bethany Beach by preserving the natural resources that attract people to eastern Sussex County.”

“The cooperation of all of the partners – including the sellers – has made this addition to the Town of Bethany possible. It will have lasting benefits for generations to come,” McHugh said.

Delaware’s congressional delegation was pleased that federal funds were available for this project.

“Preserving open space has always been a high priority of mine and the State of Delaware. I am very pleased we will be able to conserve this open space as part of a strong environmental legacy which we can pass on to future generations,” Congressman Mike Castle said. “We need to continue finding ways to protect Delaware’s many environmental treasures to conserve our environment in balance with Delaware’s tremendous economic growth and development.”

“We have been successful in preserving more open space because we approach this issue as partners. It took the federal, state and local governments working together with the Trust for Public Land to make this happen,” said Senator Tom Carper. “Bethany Beach is one of America’s summer vacation capitals from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but this preservation effort will improve the quality of life there year-round.”

“I believe the greatest legacy we can leave our children is the preservation of public land. This area in Bethany will be forever protected and its natural beauty will be passed on long after we are gone,” said Senator Biden.

Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in our communities and to protect our natural and historic resources for future generations. To date, TPL has protected more than 1.2 million acres of land nationwide valued at $1 billion. The organization will add 230 acres to Delaware’s Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge later this spring, following up on a 22-acre acquisition to the Refuge in 1998.