Austin Okie of Georgetown, Delaware has always enjoyed the sound of a bird’s song. It’s one of the reasons why in 1997, he secured a conservation easement on his family’s 154-acre farm, located on the Indian River in Sussex County. The donation came after the family had already assisted the chapter with acquiring more than 400 acres located on an adjacent property.
A decade later, Okie duplicated his generosity by donating additional property — called Poplar Thicket — to The Nature Conservancy. Located along the Indian River Bay, Poplar Thicket was purchased by his maternal grandfather, L.P. Faucett, in 1918. In 1972 it was included in the Lorraine Fleming book “Delaware’s Outstanding Natural Areas and their Preservation.” The property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Okie donated Poplar Thicket so that it could serve as refuge for birds in the midst of growing development pressures and increasing populations. It’s a location that more than fits the bill.
Since it comprises a portion of one of Delaware’s fragile inland bays, Poplar Thicket falls in the middle of the Atlantic Flyway. Protecting and restoring it will not only sustain Okie’s legacy in the area, but will benefit a variety of migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds and other species.
Size: 118 acres
Location: Sussex County, west of the Indian River inlet on Long Neck, between the Rehoboth and Bethany beach communities.
What’s At Stake
Extensive tidal salt marsh, wetlands, scattered patches of native coastal forest and a ¼-mile stretch of the only undisturbed frontage remaining along the Indian River Bay.
Pollution from residential development and agriculture. In addition to steady growth throughout the year, the human population also temporarily soars during the summer season.
The property was secured by The Nature Conservancy in October 2007. After permanent protections were put in place, the property was transferred to the state of Delaware, establishing it as the Marian R. Okie Memorial Wildlife Preserve at Poplar Thicket.
Now operated by the state of Delaware, the preserve serves as a bird sanctuary and is used for conservation education and environmentally-sensitive activities such as bird-watching and walking.
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control