The Sultana Education Foundation (SEF) announced that the National Park Service Chesapeake Gateways program has provided $200,000 in funding in support of the Lawrence Wetlands Preserve – a new urban nature center the Foundation is developing in Chestertown, Maryland. This award brings the National Park Service’s investment in the project to $250,000, as well as the contribution of considerable technical and planning support. When open to the public in 2023, the Lawrence Preserve will function, in association with the Holt Education Center, as a National Park Service partner visitor contact station on Maryland’s Upper Eastern Shore for information, education, and to get official Chesapeake passports stamped.
Established with the help of a $1 million lead gift from philanthropist Michael Lawrence, the 8.5- acre Lawrence Wetlands Preserve is centrally located in walking distance to Chestertown’s historic downtown and Sultana’s LEED Platinum Holt Education Center. While diminutive in size, the Lawrence Preserve boasts diverse habitats, including woodlands, non-tidal marsh, shrublands, warm grass meadows, swampland, and a freshwater pond draining into the Chester River. The Preserve’s “watershed in miniature” will provide an ideal setting for students to learn how land use impacts the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The Preserve will also be accessible to the public, providing a new natural space in Chestertown’s growing downtown.
“We are honored by the NPS Chesapeake Gateways’ support and commitment and are proud to have the Park Service as a partner for the Lawrence Wetlands Preserve,” said Sultana Education Foundation President, Drew McMullen. ‘Our relationship with the National Park Service spans two decades, and they have provided initial support for many of our core public and educational programs.”
“NPS Chesapeake Gateways applauds Sultana Education Foundation’s vision to create a new outdoor Chesapeake watershed classroom for students that also serves as an oasis of green space for the Chestertown and surrounding community,” said Wendy O’Sullivan, Superintendent of the NPS Chesapeake Office. “The Lawrence Preserve is the latest example of how the Sultana team is a leader and model for place-based environmental education and Chesapeake storytelling on upper Eastern Shore.”
“We are fortunate to have the Sultana Education Foundation in our community and we eagerly await the completion of the Lawrence Wetlands Preserve. We see this new facility as a tremendous asset for young people in our area and for our community as a whole,” commented Chestertown Mayor, David Foster.
The Park Service is one of several major organizational partners supporting the Lawrence Preserve, including the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area, the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust, the Indian Point Foundation, the Shared Earth Foundation, the Gosnell Foundation, and the Schumann Charitable Trust.
Work on Sultana’s Lawrence Preserve began in June with the installation of a site-wide trail network and extensive landscape engineering. This fall, the Foundation planted 400+ trees to create a woodland buffer around the property’s border, as well as two warm grass pollinator meadows. Development of the property will continue in 2022 with the construction of a 1,200 square foot nature center building allowing the Preserve to operate on a year-round basis, as well as a system of wetland pedestrian boardwalks.