Grasslands is dedicated to the core principles of conservation, restoration and environmental stewardship. We are building a community inspired by and committed to preserving the natural resources, scenic character and unique culture of The Eastern Shore.
Starting in the 1930s, my father Henry Sears acquired properties near Chestertown for rural recreational sport for himself and his NYC business friends, some of whom also purchased land in the area. He was captivated by the rural activities, agriculture and life style of the Eastern Shore. He was among the first to address the conservation and preservation needs of this remarkable area and assembled a multi-acre platform to pursue these interests.
His legacy endures with the use of the property over the last two decades for academic, scientific and commercial pursuits tied to agricultural sustainability and best management practices, conservation biology, and environmental studies.
Grasslands has forged productive collaborations and joint studies with the University of Maryland, Penn State, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, Tall Timbers Research Facility, and Washington College’s Center for the Environment and Society.
If, like me, you wish to be part of a passionate, pro-active, intellectually curious and environmentally enlightened community and lifestyle, Grasslands may be just what you’re looking for.
—Dr. Henry F. Sears, Founder
When we see land as a community to which we belong,
we may begin to use it with love and respect. — Aldo Leopold
Research, Restore and Sustain
The Grasslands Partnership is committed to collaboration with academic and scientific institutions to preserve the physical character, outdoor recreation, wildlife, agriculture and unique culture of The Eastern Shore.
For nearly 30 years, Grasslands has participated in academic and government programs designed to improve the management of natural resources, protect and enhance wildlife habitat, reduce soil erosion, and improve water quality. Nearly 450 acres are enrolled in state and federal land conservation efforts: Conservation Reserve Program; Buffer Improvement Program; Stewardship Incentive Program; and Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program. Conservation easements over the entire property protect the intrinsic scenic and biological qualities with limited development.
3,300 acres of Grasslands (a/k/a Chino Farms) is a productive working farm. Nearly 1,500 additional acres of woodlands and open space are managed both for timber harvest and wildlife habitat. Extensive areas have been re-planted to native grasses, providing rich habitat for many species of birds and wildlife. Its lake, ponds and streams serve as a sanctuary for thousands of migrating and wintering geese and ducks. Grasslands is a model of sustainable conservation and agriculture for the Chesapeake Bay region.
Center for Environment & Society (CES)
Washington College created an innovative inter-disciplinary program that immerses students in nature; helps them understand the complexity of environmental issues; and explores solutions to the environmental challenges affecting farmers, watermen, and communities like Chestertown. CES is an important partner and presence at Grasslands through its Chester River Observatory.
The Chester River Field Research Station
Grasslands hosts field studies in habitat restoration, agricultural sustainability, soil chemistry, migratory bird populations and rural heritage preservation. Specific projects include:
- Bird-banding at Forman’s Branch Bird Observatory (visit the CRFRC website)
- Re-creation of the Native Eastern Coastal Grasslands Ecosystem and Northern Bob White Quail Habitat Restoration
- Evaluation of agricultural best management practices
There are some who can live without wild things
and some who cannot. — Aldo Leopold
An Opportunity Like None Other
For those who are passionate about nature and the environment, Grasslands is a two-part ownership opportunity: each buyer will become a partner in the entire property, as well as an owner of an individual house site. Grasslands is a community for engaged conservationists and includes an income producing 3,300-acre working farm and 1,500 acres of preserved woodlands, restored habitats and open space for recreation and nature activities. All shareholders/home-owners have unrestricted access to the Chester River, the trails, the lake, ponds, streams, savannas, and the dramatic Eastern Shore vistas.
Ideally situated within deeded preservation and conservation land, Grasslands’ home sites offer privacy and idyllic beauty. Design and construction guidelines, and an architectural review process, ensure that the placement and character of homes respond to the terrain and preserve views and natural vegetation. Homeowners have the comfort of knowing the surrounding landscape is forever protected from development. Home sites have been located for maximum privacy, yet they are just minutes away from the center of Chestertown. (Site Plan coming soon)
Partners in the Community
While the home sites are held individually, the surrounding 5,000 acres are held and managed in common to ensure the ecological, recreational and aesthetic integrity of this remarkable property. Grasslands is a place for families and individuals who share a passion for nature and the environment, and the Eastern Shore lifestyle.
A Stake in a Sustainable Enterprise
One of Grasslands core assets is the successful agricultural business of Chino Farms. Thriving for over half a century, the farm is at the heart of the rural character of the property and provides an important setting for research on a variety of ecological issues. Grasslands Homeowners Holding Trust will manage rental income from the farm that the partners will direct for property maintenance, conservation activities and ecological research.
Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark
of celestial fire, called conscience. — George Washington
Grasslands stretches across fertile farmland, marsh, meadows, and woodlands in Queen Anne’s County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It encompasses a 90-acre freshwater lake, several small ponds and streams, and one-and-a-half miles of Chester River shoreline. With easy access from major metropolitan areas all along the Eastern Seaboard, it is a perfectly situated retreat.
Founded in 1706, Chestertown was a vibrant commercial center and harbor during the colonial years through the mid-19th century. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Patrick Henry all stayed in Chestertown. A short drive from Grasslands, it is now an iconic college town with many examples of 18th and 19th century architecture, offering a blend of history, arts, shopping, dining and water sport activities as well as nationally recognized music, maritime, food and art festivals.
The River & The Bay
Part of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the Chester River Water Trail features more than 100 miles of waterways, ecosystems, and over 10,000 years of human history. Canoes and kayaks can explore numerous tidal creeks with pristine wetland habitats and abundant wildlife. The lower river offers excellent crabbing, fishing, sailing, boating, and scenery. The legendary Chesapeake Bay, just 12 miles away, is the largest estuary in the United States.
General Washington gave the “College at Chester” a founding gift of 50 guineas and permission to use his name. He served on the Board of Visitors and Governors for five years until 1789, when he became President of the United States. He accepted an honorary degree from Washington College that same year. Today, it is a flourishing campus with outstanding cultural events. The College’s innovative Center for Environment & Society leads the environmental and land management research and migratory bird banding projects at Grasslands.
Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and
mysteries of the earth, are never alone or weary of life. — Rachel Carson
The Eastern Shore offers something for almost everyone, from fishermen to birdwatchers, from equestrians to rowers and sailors, from hunters to gatherers and golfers. Grasslands offers a dynamic lifestyle that is at once accessible and active, and also set apart and serene.
The Great Outdoors
Grasslands abounds with outdoor recreation and sport. For small boat sailing and kayaking on the Chester River, the property has a boathouse, docks and several boat launches. Nearby Chestertown has deep-water marinas with the Chesapeake Bay just twelve miles away. Grasslands lies on the migratory pathway for major waterfowl and neo-tropical songbirds and features a reclaimed habitat for bobwhite quail.
Nature trails extend through miles of diverse bird watching habitat including the Bird Banding Station. Walking and riding trails interlace forest, fields and meadows. Other amenities provided to the partners include a private Chester River beach, dock and nature center.
The Chino Club
A private hunt club that preserves natural habitats in sustainable ways, the Chino Club’s meticulous fostering of wildlife and game populations has created an exceptional hunting environment, with stables and sporting kennels on site. A full-time huntsman manages the hunting and fishing.