The tiny town of Laurel in western Sussex County has seen its better days, but a unique project to reinvigorate areas along the banks of Broad Creek is about to become reality.
Officials expect to break ground on a nature-based playground in late summer that will be the first of a series of creek-front projects to comprise a district known as The Ramble. The playground, to stand in Tidewater Park, is thought to be the only one of its kind on the Eastern Shore.
“It would be a destination for families,” says Brian Shannon, property manager for the Laurel Redevelopment Corp., one of the players in the project. “Not only can kids play there, but they’ll get an education of the history of the Nanticoke Indians, for example.”
When the multiyear project comes to fruition, The Ramble will be a green, mixed-use community that highlights the natural features of Broad Creek, a tributary of the Nanticoke River. The vision includes cottage-style homes, parks and businesses as part of a user-friendly greenway that connects existing parks. The plan emphasizes nature tourism—it includes a village green and a kayak launch—and new businesses would complement the green-centric approach.
The town of Laurel and University of Delaware worked with residents to develop ideas for revitalizing downtown while also protecting the environment. Recent efforts have focused on the green infrastructure of several parcels while continuing to raise money for the project.
The project received a boost last summer when then-Gov. Jack Markell designated Laurel as a Downtown Development District. The grant program provides incentives to those who invest in the redevelopment of the designated area.
“There is a lot of help being put forward to bring Laurel back up,” Shannon says. “This is more than just a riverwalk. It’s an economic development project.”