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Perdue $100K grant funds Seaford amphitheater

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The Perdue Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to the Chesapeake Conservancy to fund a new natural outdoor amphitheater at Oyster House Park in Seaford, Del. From left to right are Jim Perdue, chairman of Perdue Farms, Kim Nechay, executive director of the Perdue Foundation, Randall Larrimore, Chesapeake Conservancy board chair, David Genshaw, Seaford Mayor and Drew Getty, vice president of environmental sustainability and government relations for Perdue Farms. | PHOTO COURTESY OF PERDUE

SEAFORD – The Franklin P. and Arthur W. Perdue Foundation, the charitable giving arm of Perdue Farms, presented Chesapeake Conservancy with a donation of $100,000 on Oct. 26 to benefit the construction of an outdoor natural amphitheater at Seaford’s new Oyster House Park located at 201 S. Cannon St. at the site of the old J.B. Robinson Oyster House along the Seaford River Walk on the Nanticoke River.

“We are so grateful to the Perdue Foundation for supporting this vision,” said Randall Larrimore, Chesapeake Conservancy board chair, in a statement. “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.

“Thanks to the generosity of Perdue, one day we will also enjoy a performance at a new outdoor natural amphitheater. We believe we are helping to build a stronger community and a vibrant downtown. I was raised in Seaford, and my father was the mayor 60 years ago. He would be so proud to see this site as the gem of the community that it is today.”

The Perdue gift is part of the company’s “Delivering Hope To Our Neighbors initiative focused on improving quality of life and building strong communities.

“At Perdue Farms, 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, in a statement.

“Perdue has already made a significant investment in Seaford with their Agribusiness port and grain facility just upriver. 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,” said Seaford Mayor David Genshaw in a statement. “This project owes everything to good stewards like Perdue along with the financial commitments from our partners in the Chesapeake Conservancy, state of Delaware, and Sussex County. On behalf of all of Seaford, we say thank you.”

Perdue’s generous gift will help fund the planned outdoor natural amphitheater, which will be built into the slope of the property accented with native plants. There will be seating for 75 people in the amphitheater and room on the lawn for an additional 200 people. This will also serve as a community outdoor classroom, gathering space for performances and erosion control to address runoff from steep banks.

Additionally, as part of the site improvement plan for this phase of the park’s construction, the city plans to remove the impervious road surface and support best management practice implementation to reduce runoff from both Pearl and Cannon streets. New turnarounds will allow access to the property and support maximum available open space for pedestrian.

Timeline: the Road to Oyster House Park

In 2018, Chesapeake Conservancy, a nonprofit based in Annapolis, Md., purchased the Oyster House Park property, with the generous support of the Mt. Cuba Center, and donated the waterfront parcel to the city. Chesapeake Conservancy then worked with the city in a year-long public planning and comment period process to seek community input that was incorporated into a draft master plan for the Oyster House Park.

In late February 2020, the City Council approved a master plan calling for four stages of the park’s construction. Through resources raised by Chesapeake Conservancy, construction bid documents were designed and released in the summer of 2020, and Dissen & Juhn was chosen through a competitive bidding process for the first phase of the project. 

Construction on this 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 (Chesapeake Trail). This 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.

The total project cost of this phase was $1.2 million, which was funded through a mix of private and public resources, including state transportation funding allocated by State Rep. Daniel Short and State Sens/ Brian Pettyjohn and Bryant Richardson. Additional funding came from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Crystal Trust, Longwood Foundation, Franklin P. and Arthur W. Perdue Foundation, Welfare Foundation and REI.

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

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.

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