The Sultana Education Foundation (SEF) announced that the National Park Service (NPS) Chesapeake Gateways program has provided $200,000 of funding in support of the Lawrence Wetlands Preserve, which is a new urban nature center the SEF is developing in Chestertown, MD. 

Chestertown wetlands preserve
Lawrence Wetlands Preserve. Photo courtesy of the Sultana Education Foundation

Established with the help of a $1 million lead gift from philanthropist Michael Lawrence, the eight and a half-acre Lawrence Wetlands Preserve is 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 which drains 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.

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.

“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 SEF 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.”

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 more than 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 1200 square foot nature center building allowing the Preserve to operate on a year-round basis, as well as a system of wetland pedestrian boardwalks.