U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., announced Monday that Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge was recently expanded with the purchase of an 825-acre Tideland parcel along the Nanticoke River.
“Today I’m proud to announce the first addition to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge within the Nanticoke Unit,” Cardin said. “This is a major announcement of over 800-acres of land that now will be protected within the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.”
The acquisition conserves a tract of land along a section of the Nanticoke River near Vienna and another tract on the Marshyhope Creek near Brookview, according to a press release from Cardin’s office.
Cardin said the Nanticoke River is one of the “greatest rivers” that runs through the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. He said Native Americans used the river as a source of food for their way of life, John Smith traveled through the area during his voyage of discovery, and Harriet Tubman lived in the area and operated the Underground Railroad through the area.
Cardin said he and U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., have worked to get $4.8 million for the Land and Water conservation Fund for land acquisition within Blackwater.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used $1.4 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to buy the property from the Conservation Fund after the USFWS identified the land as prime habitat for migratory waterfowl and possibly habitat from the Delmarva fox squirrel, according to the press release.
Blackwater consists of one third of Maryland’s tidal wetlands, Cardin said, and it is economically significant to the region. Expanding the refuge is important for jobs and tourism in the region, Cardin said, and is also part of the effort to preserve the Chesapeake Bay for future generations.
“I see the people that have dedicated their lives … to preserving our treasured Chesapeake Bay (and) I am optimistic about the future that we will preserve this heritage for … the generations to come,” Cardin said.
Russell Brinsfield, mayor of Vienna, said the land acquisition is part of the town’s Community Vision Plan, which outlines how the town can retain its “small-town character” while continuing to expand within 20 to 30 years. Brinsfield said the main goal of the plan, which was published in 2003, includes maintaining the rural legacy of Vienna by protecting important vistas, farms and forests that surround the town.
Since the plan was published, the Emperor’s Landing waterfront park was established to remember and honor the region’s Native American history and the old Nanticoke Inn was purchased to house the proposed John Smith Exploratory Center, Brinsfield said.
“Today’s announcement provides another important piece in the puzzle to help Vienna realize its goal as becoming a tourist destination site for people interested in experiencing the rich heritage and culture of this beautiful river,” Brinsfield said.