CBF Sells Fox Island; Programs There End Due to Sea Level Rise

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Chesapeake Bay Foundation recently sold its educational facility on Fox Island. Photo courtesy of CBF.

By Carol Vaughn —

After more than four decades, the recent sale of Fox Island marked the end of an era for educational programs held there by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Willy Agee, CBF’s vice president of administration, said the foundation is “desperately heartbroken” to lose the island.
“Fox was a really magical place,” he said, adding, “It was a place that touched” those who spent time there.
“It’s really a sea level rise issue more than anything that’s driven us out of there, because we have lost a lot of our barrier islands that have protected the center for so many years,” Agee said.
The island lies between Tangier and Pocomoke sounds.
Visits there for educational programs were highlights of their high school years for many students from the Eastern Shore and elsewhere.
CBF held its last student programs on the island in summer 2019, he said.
“It was a safety issue. We stopped running trips because we didn’t feel like we could be 100% ensured (of) the safety of these students — and that’s not an acceptable place for us to be.”
According to a deed recorded Nov. 23 in the Accomack County Clerk of Circuit Court office, the island was sold for $70,000 to DGM Finance, LLC, a Delaware-registered company with a Baltimore address listed on the deed.
Fox Island when it was surveyed in 1773 was 426 acres, according to the deed.
It actually was made up of seven or eight separate islands, according to Agee.
When CBF had the property appraised a year ago, there were only around 34 acres left above water, he said.

Aerial views of Fox Island show significant land loss between 1994 and 2019. Photo courtesy of CBF.

A facility on the island was built as a private hunting lodge in the 1920s.
The group of “gentlemen hunters,” most of whom were from Baltimore, employed local residents as guides and cooks when they hunted throughout the winter season, according to Agee.
CBF acquired the property in the mid-1970s “and ran programs there pretty continuously” until last year, Agee said.
According to the deed, CBF acquired the property from Fox Islands, Inc., in November 1975.
The property prior to that was conveyed to Fox Islands, Inc., by Fox Island Rod and Gun Club, Inc., in 1942.
CBF still owns Port Isobel, near Tangier, and also has centers on Smith Island and at Bishop’s Head in Maryland.
“Port Isobel has typically operated as a single program facility, but we have a second facility on the property — and, in fact, for the past couple of years during bad weather events we would run our Fox Island program out of Port Isobel. … The students that would have come to Fox will now all go to Port Isobel,” Agee said.
Proceeds from the sale of Fox Island will go into CBF’s general fund. Still, “it will certainly help support some of our educational opportunities,” Agee said.
The thought of students no longer having the chance to spend time on Fox Island learning about the Chesapeake Bay “is an emotional sort of deal, but there is also a…business aspect to it. We can’t maintain a center that we can’t take kids to,” he said.
The registered agent for the property’s purchaser, DGM Finance, LLC, declined to give information about the company or the purchase.

Fox Island as viewed from the air on Aug. 24, 2018. Fox Island has been home to a Chesapeake Bay Foundation education facility for over 40 years, but 2019 was the last season CBF operated on the island due to the loss of protective marshes caused by sea level rise and erosion. Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program with aerial support by Southwings.