Carl M. Freeman Foundation Supports Next Phase of Seaford’s New Oyster House Park with $150,000

Seaford, DE – Today, Chesapeake Conservancy announced a $150,000 grant over two years from the Carl M. Freeman Foundation (CMFF) that will support Phase 2 of Seaford’s new Oyster House Park along the Seaford River Walk on the Nanticoke River. The park officially opened to the public in the summer of 2021 and is located at 201 South Cannon Street at the site of the old J.B. Robinson Oyster House.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Carl M. Freeman Foundation for their support,” said Chesapeake Conservancy Board Chair Randall Larrimore. “CMFF was excited when they learned about the project to connect families and visitors to the natural wonders of the Nanticoke River through the Oyster House Park in Seaford. They were inspired to help us create this special place that everyone could enjoy for generations to come and build an amphitheater in Phase 2 that could be used to bring The Arts to children throughout Sussex County.”

“We are thrilled to support Chesapeake Conservancy and their efforts to provide downtown Seaford with a beautiful space in nature to enjoy the arts,” commented CMFF Executive Director Patti Grimes. “The Nanticoke River is vital to our state, and we commend Chesapeake Conservancy for creating a space for us all to enjoy its beauty.”

“We are very grateful for the Carl M Freeman Foundation financial support of the good work going on in Seaford along the Nanticoke River. The opportunity to preserve, educate, and provide recreational opportunities for all through the Oyster House Park Project is exciting, but cannot be accomplished without this support,” said Seaford’s Mayor David Genshaw. “The Freeman Foundation has stepped up in a big way to help make this happen, and we are incredibly thankful.”

CMFF’s $150,000 grant will support the next phase (phase 2) of the park over the course of two years. Phase 2 includes plans for a natural green amphitheater at the edge of the property that will seat 75 people with an overflow of about 200 additional people on the lawn. The amphitheater will do triple duty as a community outdoor classroom, gathering space for performances and as erosion control addressing runoff from steep banks. Phase 2 will also include the completion of road drainage improvements to address runoff from historic downtown Seaford.

Timeline: the Road to Oyster House Park

In 2018, Chesapeake Conservancy, a nonprofit based in Annapolis, MD, purchased the Oyster House Park property, with the generous support of the Mt. Cuba Center, and donated the waterfront parcel to the City. Chesapeake Conservancy then worked with the City in a year-long public planning and comment period process to seek community input that was incorporated into a draft master plan for the Oyster House Park.

In late February 2020, the City Council approved a master plan calling for four stages of the park’s construction. After a competitive bidding process, construction on this first phase of the new park began in December 2020 and focused on enhancing access to the Nanticoke River along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail (Chesapeake Trail). This phase extended the Seaford River Walk and created fishing nooks, a performance deck, boat docking facilities and a kayak launch. A reconstructed bulkhead stabilized the existing shoreline and created a new living shoreline featuring native plants.

The total project cost of this phase was $1.2 million, which was funded through a mix of private and public resources, including state transportation funding allocated by State Representative Daniel Short and State Senators Brian Pettyjohn and Bryant Richardson. Additional funding came from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the State of Delaware Community Reinvestment Fund, the Crystal Trust, Longwood Foundation, Franklin P. and Arthur W. Perdue Foundation, Welfare Foundation and REI.

The City hosted a ribbon-cutting to officially open the new park in July 2021.

Phase Two of the project is expected to cost between $1.1 million and $1.4 million. Subsequent phases are planned to take place over five years, with each phase focused on providing benefits for the community that can be enjoyed immediately upon completion.