News & Politics

A Free Property on the Chesapeake Bay? Yes, But . . .

Sorry, only nonprofits and public organizations can compete for Holly Beach Farm.

Holly Beach Farm. Photograph courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Got a nonprofit and an interest in conservation? There’s a 300-acre property on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay that could be yours for free. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is looking for someone to take over ownership of Holly Beach Farm, located on the same peninsula as Sandy Point State Park at the foot of the Bay Bridge. If applicants can indicate how they will fund the necessary investments to restore and improve the Anne Arundel County beach, the property will change hands at no cost.

The spit of land is the size of the National Mall, covered with coves, woods, and marshes. CBF posted a request for expressions of interest on October 25, soliciting bids from nonprofits and public organizations that plan to “honor the history and ecological significance of the property.” 

“We are not looking for compensation for it, however it requires significant investment,” says John Surrick, a spokesman for CBF. “We want to try and have an organization or entity that has additional resources to do some other things with it.”

The foundation took possession of the former race horse farm in 2002, planting trees and restoring wetlands while using the property for small education trips. But some of the historic farm buildings have fallen into disrepair, and the land has become overgrown with invasive plants. 

Restrictions placed on the land by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources specify that its primary purposes should be education as well as protecting migratory bird habitat and scenic landscape, rather than beach access. The foundation says this won’t change, but public access to the beach could expand to some degree in the future. 

“While Holly Beach Farm has been a critical piece of our education programs, we believe there is a future for the property that is much bigger,” Hillary Harp Falk, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s president, wrote in an online statement last year. 

The foundation hasn’t received any proposals yet—the deadline is November 24—but the Maryland Department of Natural Resources itself could submit one. Alternatively, if the National Park Trust gets involved, the land could conceivably someday become part of the Chesapeake National Recreation area proposed in new legislation this year. The small stretch of bayfront public land would be notable because around 98 percent of the bay’s shorelines are privately owned, according to the National Park Trust. 

But any interested nonprofits could already have competition. Bitcoin billionaire Mark Saylor, who has been buying up properties nearby, may be interested: The Baltimore Banner reports that Saylor set up a Delaware-based nonprofit called Holly Beach Farm Conservancy Inc. after buying a home next door in 2018. 

Ike Allen
Assistant Editor