Set for October 19
After a long, hot, dry summer, autumn's cool, crisp days are finally here. It's a great time to throw on your favorite sweatshirt and get outdoors.
This weekend, an open house at the James Farm Ecological Preserve near Ocean View offers a perfect chance to enjoy the beauty of the Inland Bays -- and maybe even learn something. The James Farm open house will be Saturday, Oct. 19, 2002 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., followed by a pig roast social from 3 p.m. to dusk.
The land was given to the county by Mary A.S. Lighthipe with the stipulation that it be used for environmental education. Each year, hundreds of schoolchildren and other groups visit the James Farm to learn about the ecology of the Inland Bays, from the horseshoe crabs that lay their eggs on its sandy beach to the downy woodpeckers that inhabit the woodland and the wildflowers that flourish in the meadow.
On Saturday, Chris Bennett of the state's Division of Parks and Recreation will lead nature walks through the preserve at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. Kayak demonstrations will be given from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., starting on the beach and concluding with a chance for visitors to paddle out into the Indian River Bay. The kayak program will be led by Matt Carter and Rob Rector of Quiet Kayaks.
Breaks before paddling will allow participants to learn about oysters and horseshoe crabs. University of Delaware scientist John Ewart, once called "the man who knows more about oysters than anyone can imagine," will talk about oysters and their important role in the ecology of the bays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
At noon and 2 p.m., Bill Hall of the UD College of Marine Studies will talk about the horseshoe crab, one of the bay's most treasured creatures.
At 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., Native American storyteller Ragghi Claentine, of Cherokee descent, will share knowledge of her people. Also at 11:30 a.m. and again at 1:30 p.m., Joe Farrell and Ed Whereat of the UD College of Marine Studies will test the water quality. Participants will be able to view samples under a field microscope.
There will also be demonstrations and information available at the open house from Tri-State Bird Rescue and the Delaware Heritage Commission, as well as on boating safety.
The open house will be followed by a new event, a pig roast social. The social, which runs from 3 p.m. to dusk, will feature food and drinks and is a fund-raiser to support James Farm programs. Tickets are $20 per person. The event replaces the Center's "Splash" events as an autumn fundraiser.
As someone who has visited the James Farm many times, both as a journalist covering special activities and as a resident simply taking my dog for a romp, I can attest that it is a special place. Merely the fact that it will remain a wild spot in the midst of increasing development makes it a valuable asset. But efforts by the Center, particularly Jim Alderman, the CIB restoration coordinator, have helped to make the most of the site.
Each year, Alderman, a former teacher, has hosted scores of schoolchildren at the James Farm. Some of these kids have never seen a horseshoe crab or an oyster, and Alderman's goal is that they leave with a new appreciation for life in and around the bays. Judging from the excitement on their faces as they help Alderman haul in a seine net, I'd say they do.
Alderman has also held numerous tree plantings at the site, in an effort to restore the area close to Cedar Neck Road to its original woodland status, providing more habitat and cover for the wild inhabitants of the area, including fox, deer and numerous species of birds. Boardwalks and observation platforms -- all built by volunteers -- allow visitors to see as much of the James Farm as possible without disturbing its wild residents.
So head on out on Saturday and enjoy the James Farm -- whether you've been there before or you've never visited, it'll be worth the trip. And do stay for the pig roast -- October sunsets on the Indian River Bay are spectacular, and you'll be supporting a great cause.
The James Farm Ecological Preserve is located on Cedar Neck Road near Ocean View. From Route 26, head north at the Central Avenue light in Ocean View. The James Farm is on the left, just past Bethany Club Tennis. From Route 1, turn west at the light at Road 360 (Fred Hudson Road), follow that to the light at Cedar Neck Road, and turn right. The James Farm is about 1.5 miles on the left.
For more information, call the Center for the Inland Bays at 645-7325.
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