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Maryland Accepts Donation of Holly Beach Farm – A Unique Chesapeake Bay Property in Anne Arundel County

Photo of people walking in a wooded waterfront area

Governor Wes Moore joined Secretary Josh Kurtz and staff at Holly Beach Farm in February. Photo by Patrick Siebert, Office of the Governor.

The Board of Public Works today approved the Maryland Department of Natural Resources accepting the donation of Holly Beach Farm, a 293-acre waterfront property in Anne Arundel County, from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

“This is a remarkable opportunity for all Marylanders to experience the Chesapeake Bay,” said Gov. Wes Moore. “I offer my thanks to the many partners who helped make today’s transfer happen, including our friends at the National Park Service, the Conservation Fund, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Mrs. Leonie Gately, who had the vision to protect this land for the future. I am looking forward to visiting again soon to see the great work our Department of Natural Resources’ team does to prepare this property for the future.”

Closing will be completed in the next several months after the Department of Natural Resources completes its due diligence. After the transfer process is complete, the department will maintain the property as a Natural Resources Management Area. Department staff will engage neighbors and others interested in the future of the property in a deliberative process to begin creating an operational and management plan for Holly Beach Farm. 

“Holly Beach Farm is a unique and sensitive natural resource of significant ecological value to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Josh Kurtz. “With more than 90 percent of the Bay’s shoreline in private ownership, it’s imperative that we offer new ways for people to enjoy the wonders of the Chesapeake. This acquisition provides new opportunities for Marylanders to enjoy the wildlife and environmental features that make this region of Maryland so special.”

Public access is a critical element to the future of the property and the requirements of the acquisition. The department is planning to provide prescriptive and measured public access to Holly Beach Farm with a focus on unique water access opportunities as a featured component.

The property is served by a single lane road and consists of forested areas, open fields, a freshwater pond, and beaches along the Chesapeake Bay and Whitehall Bay. It will be managed by the Maryland Park Service with shared resources and vision from the department’s wildlife and Bay resilience experts, all with an eye toward conservation and limited, nature-based recreation.

Holly Beach Farm, which is just south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, is an important staging and wintering area for migratory waterfowl as well as a nesting site for herons and bald eagles. 

The property was part of a 3,000-acre estate and summer home of industrialist magnate Sylvester Labrot, who built a mansion there in 1908. It remained in private ownership until 2001, when the Conservation Fund acquired the Holly Beach property and conveyed it to Chesapeake Bay Foundation to manage it for conservation and environmental education. The former owner, Leonie Gately, preserved the property and sold it for conservation purposes, despite more lucrative and regular requests from developers.

In October 2023, Chesapeake Bay Foundation issued a Request for Expressions of Interest seeking a new steward with a proven ability to manage conserved lands in a way that honors the intent of the original landowner and funding sources. Following that process, the Foundation announced that the Department of Natural Resources had been selected as the new owner of the 293-acre waterfront peninsula. In February, Gov. Moore and Sec. Kurtz had the opportunity to view the ecologically sensitive property and receive an overview of its potential for education, research, and enjoyment.

Photo of people gathered behind a desk holding a map

The Board of Public Works – Gov. Wes Moore, Treasurer Derrick Davis, and Comptroller Brooke Lierman – welcome DNR and Chesapeake Bay Foundation officials after approving the donation of Holly Beach Farm to the State of Maryland. Photo by Patrick Siebert, Office of the Governor.