The Phillips Wharf Environmental Center is the proud owner of Harrison’s Oyster House, bringing the center one step closer to a new and larger home on Tilghman Island.

The new property will help the center’s founder, Kelley Phillips Cox, fulfill her dream of turning the center into not just a place to touch and learn about the Chesapeake’s creatures, but also a place to celebrate and keep active the working waterfronts of the Chesapeake Bay.

Phillips Wharf will lease back the oyster house to the Harrison family, which will continue to use the property at the island’s gateway as a landing to buy and clean fish as well as shuck oysters. Cox will oversee the planting of a living shoreline, a repair to the crumbling bulkhead and a replanting of the area with native grasses.

Eventually, Cox hopes to use the oyster house to launch an apprenticeship program for Eastern Shore high school students who are interested in aquaculture. She plans to remodel part of the building for classroom and exhibit space. With the new facility, the small environmental center will be able to accommodate even more visitors.

“I’m happy that we’ve gotten it, but now the big work starts,” Cox said. “There’s a whole lot of work to do to get it where we want it.”

Few thought Cox would get this far. The oyster house property cost $450,000. In September, she had only half of that. She had no professional fundraisers and only a month to come up with the rest before the Harrisons sold it to a waiting suitor, who wanted to turn it into a hotel. (See “Daughter of Bay seeks to honor island’s heritage, preserve future,” September 2013.)