News Coverage

17 June 2022

VAN HOLLEN, SARBANES ANNOUNCE CHESAPEAKE NATIONAL RECREATION AREA WORKING GROUP PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE LEGISLATION: Members are Spearheading an Effort to Create a Chesapeake National Recreation Area to Benefit & Highlight the Bay Watershed



Category: News Coverage

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen and Congressman John Sarbanes (both D-Md.) announced the release of key principles guiding their work to create a unified Chesapeake National Recreation Area (CNRA), developed in conjunction with the working group the lawmakers have convened. The working group, which is comprised of federal and state lawmakers and over 30 regional stakeholder organizations, will continue to collaborate over the coming months to release a draft bill for public comment aligned with these principles.

Despite its ecological importance, iconic landscape, rich culture and history, and vast recreational benefits, the Chesapeake Bay region does not have a unified National Park System designation. A unified designation will provide an opportunity to help conserve the Bay, improve public access to it, deliver additional federal resources to the region, and spur economic growth and prosperity across the watershed. As the principles clearly lay out, the Recreation Area will be made up of hubs and partner-sites of regional importance – contributed on a voluntary basis. They will not impose any additional regulations on recreational or business activities in the Chesapeake Bay waters, and the National Park Service’s authority will not supersede state authority on these matters. Additionally, creation of the CNRA will rely heavily on public participation and the input of stakeholders to create a culture of stewardship and increase environmentally conscious tourism in the Bay region. 

“Marylanders know the Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure, and creating a Chesapeake National Recreation Area will help further spotlight that fact – bringing national recognition and greater opportunities to our region. These principles put forward by our working group are an important step in our drafting of this legislation, and they lay our underlying goals and objectives for this project,” said Senator Van Hollen. “In the coming months, we will continue to build on this foundation working together to draft legislation for public review that will ultimately achieve our goals of unlocking more restoration resources, generating sustainable economic opportunity, growing Bay tourism, and improving equitable access to the Bay. We still have more hard work in front of us, but I’m grateful for the efforts of our working group so far and look forward to moving full steam ahead.” 

“Pursuing the creation of the Chesapeake National Recreation Area has been a long undertaking with extensive community engagement and transparency. In collaboration with the stakeholders in the working group, Senator Van Hollen and I have identified a set of principles that will create a CNRA dedicated to the Chesapeake Bay’s rich history and ecological significance that is accessible to the community and celebrates this beloved national treasure. We are pleased to release these principles today as an update on the great progress we’ve made and a promise to see this process through to the betterment of the entire Chesapeake Bay region,” said Congressman Sarbanes.

Chesapeake National Recreation Area Guiding Principles

The Chesapeake National Recreation Area

Senator Chris Van Hollen and Congressman John Sarbanes have convened a working group to consider legislation that would designate a unified Chesapeake National Recreation Area. This venture has the potential to provide ecological, cultural, and economic benefits to the region. The Chesapeake National Recreation Area would utilize a collection of partnerships with states, localities, and private entities intended to highlight the diverse landscape and national significance of the Chesapeake Bay. Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Sarbanes will draft legislation creating the Chesapeake National Recreation Area in alignment with the following principles: 

1. National Significance of Bay

The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure and the largest estuary in the nation - with its watershed covering over 64,000 square miles. Legislation creating a National Recreation Area will highlight the ecological importance, iconic landscape, rich culture and history, and vast recreational benefits of the region. The Chesapeake National Recreation Area will create a major new draw for visitors to the region and make substantial contributions to the region’s economy.

2. Land-based Proposal

The Chesapeake National Recreation Area will be a land-based proposal. While the Chesapeake National Recreation Area will greatly enhance recreation and businesses based in the Chesapeake Bay region, it will not impose any additional regulations on recreational or business activities in the Chesapeake Bay waters, nor will the National Park Service authority supersede state authority on these matters.

3. Respect Land Rights

Rather than a single place, the Chesapeake National Recreation Area will build on the success of the National Park Service Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Program and elevate key, discrete sites around the Bay while linking them together under the coordinated brand of the Park Service. The national recreation area model allows for voluntary “opt-in” partnerships with state parks and other existing public lands that will represent the full Chesapeake National Recreation Area. In addition, the National Park Service will be authorized to acquire, through purchase or through donation from voluntary owners, parcels that will enhance public access to the Chesapeake Bay. There will be no additional regulations governing non-participating private or public landowners.

4. Public Engagement

The Chesapeake National Recreation Area will tell a common narrative about the nation’s largest estuary and one of the world’s largest environmental restoration efforts, including the people who have contributed to its vibrant landscape. In line with the cooperative vision of the Chesapeake National Recreation Area, the legislation will be released for public comment so that it reflects the ideas and feedback from community members and organizations that will be impacted by the proposal. The legislation will create an Advisory Commission to allow for continued public input. 

5. Alignment with Goals of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement

The Chesapeake Bay is the focus of one of the largest environmental restoration efforts in the world. The legislation for the Chesapeake National Recreation Area will also align with the goals of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Agreement, including promoting a healthy ecosystem and habitat, conserving and protecting lands, bolstering environmental stewardship and literacy, and incorporating climate resiliency. 

6. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Chesapeake Bay watershed is also home to numerous cultural heritage sites that tell the story of our nation’s inception. The Chesapeake National Recreation Area will highlight the stories that often go untold – those of Indigenous peoples, free and enslaved Blacks, and watermen and women who’ve all played a vital role in the economic success and health of the Bay region. While there’s certainly a diverse cultural history of the Bay, many urban and rural residents, underinvested communities, and communities of color lack access to the Bay today. That’s why the Chesapeake National Recreation Area will also prioritize expanding access and engagement for all locals and visitors to the watershed.

7. Increasing Public Access

The Chesapeake National Recreation Area will focus on providing high-quality close-to-home outdoor opportunities in the Bay. The Advisory Council will engage and empower local leadership, Tribal and Indigenous groups, and other stakeholders, working collaboratively to create a space that eliminates transportation, language, and mobility barriers, and includes features that meet the needs of the community for the purpose of creating a safe and welcoming natural environment for all to enjoy. 

8. Increasing Tourism in the Bay Watershed

The Chesapeake National Recreation Area will elevate the Chesapeake Bay by bringing additional local, national, and international recognition creating a major new draw for visitors to the region and making substantial contributions to the region’s economy. The environmentally conscious tourism sparked by the recreation area will support vendors in the food, lodging, outdoor recreation, and travel businesses.

9. Creating a Culture of Stewardship

By inviting visitors to experience and engage with ongoing conservation efforts in and around the Chesapeake Bay, the Chesapeake National Recreation Area will build upon the National Park Service’s legacy of preservation, conservation, and stewardship to protect the natural resources of the Chesapeake Bay and educate the next generation of stewards in the process. The health of the Chesapeake Bay relies on the responsible management from all who reside in the watershed, and the stewardship of our upland and downstream communities is vital to maintaining a beautiful Bay. Additionally, the Chesapeake National Recreation Area will highlight and create a pathway to green careers using the partnerships between NPS, state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and private stakeholders. These partnerships will provide access to information and resources for visitors seeking to pursue careers in public land conservation, tourism, the Bay economy, watermen and fishing communities, traditional and grassroots environmental organizations, and more.

10. Citizen Advisory Commission

The Chesapeake National Recreation Area legislation will create a Citizen Advisory Commission in order to ensure sufficient community engagement in the development and implementation of the Chesapeake National Recreation Area management plan. The Advisory Commission will consist of four representatives each from Maryland and Virginia with knowledge of environmental, recreational, environmental justice, cultural or historic resources, education, or interpretation; one representative each from Maryland and Virginia with knowledge of the agricultural interests of the Bay; one representative each from Maryland and Virginia with knowledge of the commercial fishing interests of the Bay; one youth representative each from Maryland and Virginia; two Tribal representatives from state and federally recognized Tribes that are traditionally associated with the Chesapeake Bay; one representative each selected by the Governors of Maryland and Virginia; and the Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. 

Members of the working group are: Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Representatives Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), and Elaine Luria (D-Va.); the State of Maryland; the Commonwealth of Virginia; Chesapeake Conservancy; the Chesapeake Bay Commission; the National Parks Conservation Association; Choose Clean Water Coalition; the Conservation Fund; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; Maryland League of Conservation Voters; Nature Conservancy; Potomac Conservancy; REI; the National Trust for Historic Preservation; the American Sportfishing Association; the National Marine Manufacturing Association; the Watermen of Maryland; the Sport Fishing Commission; Historic Annapolis; Oyster Recovery Partnership; Blue Oyster Environmental LLC; Preservation Virginia; Shellfish Growers of Virginia; the James River Association; Virginia Interfaith Power & Light; Marine Trades Association of Maryland; the Audubon Naturalist Society; Living Classrooms; the Hispanic Access Foundation; Latino Outdoors; Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP); Chispa Maryland; Baltimore Tree Trust; Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation, Clean Chesapeake Coalition, Verna Harrison Associates, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission; the National Aquarium; Morgan State University Patuxent Environmental & Aquatic Research Laboratory; and The Wilderness Society.

Written for Chris Van Hollen, U.S. Senator for Maryland.

 

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