A Growing Movement:  The Story of The Bay Creek Stewardship Club

When Joe Fehrer began as on staff naturalist at Bay Creek in the fall of 2020, he said this: “To get people excited and to begin to truly care about nature, they have to know it. You can’t make that connection by looking at a brochure or magazine. You have to really get out there to understand it.”

Now, a few years on, Joe is in very good company. The Bay Creek Stewardship Club joins him in enjoying, exploring, and preserving this natural Eastern Shore wonderland. Like so many things across the Preserve, beaches and woodlands at Bay Creek, the club began as a seed of an idea and took root.

We spoke with Bay Creek resident and club member, Jed Lafferty, about how the Stewardship Club came to be, its mission, and what it’s like to be a nature lover at Bay Creek.

“The stewardship club really did come into being organically,” laughs Jed. “It started before my wife, Pam, and I even moved to Bay Creek. We had just moved into an apartment in Cape Charles in August of 2020 while our home in Bayside Village was still under construction. I reached out to Meghan Neville, who, at the time, was Director of Concierge Services for some help. We had a 14-foot kayak on top of the car and two bicycles on the back. Meghan helped me find places for them on the property”

“I wasn’t a golfer at the time, and I didn’t fish. I had a kayak. I liked to bike but didn’t know where…and I was really interested in learning more about what they had in mind for the Base Camp area and the Nature Preserve. At our previous home in Pennsylvania, I converted a half-acre of grass into a wildflower meadow and put up a few bluebird houses.  Meghan mentioned in passing that they had talked about getting a nature club off the ground. A little later, we were unloading my kayak (and putting in at an area where now, we’re launching kayak excursions). I happened to look over and see a bluebird house.”

Jed was intrigued. “I said, ‘I’m into bluebirds. We should set up a bluebird trail around the nature preserve.’”

One of the very first things the fledgling Stewardship Club did was get a dozen or so bluebird houses. “The next thing you know, we had a group of people taking turns with the post hole digger, and other people nailing the boxes onto the posts,” laughs Jed.

Like the club itself, the initial birdhouse project is now expanding. It was during their fall 2022 kickoff planning event that they discussed an interesting next step. “We wanted to encourage people to have their own bluebird houses along the trail. Instead of just buying or building one for your yard, put your name on it. Honor your kids or grandkids, so 20 years from now, they might walk by and say that’s our bluebird house!

“We also got the official go ahead to do kayak excursions have had group outings led by Stan ‘the Ranger’ and Meghan down Plantation Creek. And that place where I initially kept my kayak… now there are about 30 more,” Jed says.

The Stewardship Club is for anyone who appreciates nature and would like to know more about this area, including its rich history. “By no means is this just a work club,” says Jed. A lot of the things the club has accomplished have been simply because the moment called for it. “Joe and Ranger Stan called us up and said, ‘we just got a donation of 1,000 native saplings, and if we can’t get them in the ground now, we’re going to lose them,” Jed recalls. “So, we got 20 people out in a couple of days and planted them along one of the ponds that used to be the fairway of a golf course. It really has grown organically. It’s not because somebody said ‘we’re going to have a stewardship club. We just got together and did a few things. And people keep coming back.”

The Stewardship Club also helps maintain nature trails and does beach and creek cleanups to keep the environment beautiful and healthy for the animals and people who call it home. But there is a social aspect to the club that Jed points out. “At that first meeting in the fall of 2020, I met people who I soon discovered would be my future neighbors. And new friends.”

“To live here and see the full dynamic of the changing seasons, the changing days—you can go from very cloudy to the most magnificent sunset you’ve ever seen. Then to have all of this dedicated to native plants and flyways for birds making their migration through the Bay…and this is their stopping point…it’s amazing.”

You don’t have to be a member of the Bay Creek Resort Club to participate in the Stewardship Club, and you don’t have to be an expert. Anyone can take advantage of this incredible natural resource. The club has about 85 people on its mailing list, and at any given event, 10 to 20 people usually join in.

“We all have to be conscious that this is an environment that is ours to protect or destroy,” says Jed. “There are people here in Bay Creek who have incredible credentials as birders and naturalists… I just like bluebirds and wildflowers,” Jed smiles. “I’m by no means an environmentalist or ‘tree-hugger.’ I’m just somebody that looks at this asset we have here as a phenomenal resource. When you look at these sunsets and the fish in the pond, and the heron, the owls, and everything else that’s here, you see this is an incredible place to be.”

 The Stewardship Club is open to all residents and welcomes all who enjoy and appreciate nature.

For more information about the Stewardship Club, club@baycreeklife.com


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