Perdue donation will help build amphitheater in Seaford park

Charlie Megginson Government, Headlines

An aerial view of the park’s location in Seaford.

A $100,000 donation from Perdue Farms is going to help the Chesapeake Conservancy build an outdoor natural amphitheater at Seaford’s Oyster House Park.

That money will allow the Chesapeake Conservancy and the park to solidify the town as a vibrant gateway to the Chesapeake Bay, and continue to drive community revitalization.

The city of Seaford sits at the head of the Nanticoke River, and its culture and history are tightly intertwined with the health of the river, the conservancy website notes. It was the first home to the Nanticoke Indian Tribe and became a significant shipbuilding center and cornerstone of a major north-south supply line for shucked oysters.

The donation came from the company’s charitable giving arm, the Franklin P. and Arthur W. Perdue Foundation.

“We are proud to support the Chesapeake Conservancy and City of Seaford’s vision to create a venue that will provide learning opportunities for many students, a performance venue and environmental benefits of natural planting to promote erosion control on the banks of the Nanticoke River,” said Kim Nechay, executive director of the Perdue Foundation.

The total project cost of the first phase was $1.2 million, funded through a mix of private and public resources, including state transportation funding allocated by Rep. Danny Short, R-Seaford, Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, and Sen. Bryant Richardson, R-Seaford. The three legislators split their contribution because each of their districts encompass the town. 

In 2018, Chesapeake Conservancy, a nonprofit based in Annapolis, Maryland, purchased the Oyster House Park property and donated the waterfront parcel to the city. 

In early 2020, the City Council approved a master plan calling for four stages of the park’s construction. 

Construction on the 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. 

That phase expanded the Seaford River Walk and created fishing nooks, a performance deck, boat docking facilities and a kayak launch. A reconstructed bulkhead stabilized the shoreline along with a new living shoreline.

Additional funding came from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Crystal Trust, Longwood Foundation, Welfare Foundation and REI.

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

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. The new outdoor natural amphitheater is part of phase two.

Here’s how it will unfold:

  • Phase Two: A natural green amphitheater at the edge of the property that seats 75 people and an overflow of about 200 on the lawn. This will also serve as a community outdoor classroom, gathering space for performances and erosion control to address runoff from steep banks. 
  • Phase Three: A structure that is a reimagination of the two Oyster Houses that were once on the site that will showcase sculpture, interpretive exhibits and provide meeting space. It will include the necessary public amenities such as parking and bathrooms, as well as a porch and garage door openings that will permit an unblocked view of the river from South Cannon Street.
  • Phase Four: Enhancing community emotional and spiritual connections through pedestrian access to the nearby prayer garden, a tribal ring for the Nanticoke Indians to practice traditional ceremonies by the river and a pavilion for shaded gatherings.

A rendering of the plans for Oyster House Park.

Randall Larrimore, board chairman of the Chesapeake Conservancy, said the donation will help his group and the city develop a park that all in the community will be able to enjoy.

“We are so grateful to the Perdue Foundation for supporting this vision,” Larrimore said. “To construct the Oyster House Park, we partnered with the City and others to provide public access to the Nanticoke River, one of the Chesapeake’s most pristine rivers and worked together to create a beautiful place for the community to gather and recreate.

Seaford Mayor David Genshaw called the Perdue Foundation’s donation “a blessing.”

“Perdue has already made a significant investment in Seaford with their agribusiness port and grain facility just upriver,” Genshaw said. “It is truly a blessing the Perdue Foundation would also invest in the Oyster House project for the benefit of all people to enjoy and learn about our Nanticoke River and its history.”

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