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Energy & Environment

Guiding Principles Released for Chesapeake National Recreation Area

Snowy egrets and mallard on eroding marsh near Poplar Island in Talbot County. Photo by Alicia Pimental/Chesapeake Bay Program.

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) last week released 10 key principles that will guide legislation for the proposed Chesapeake National Recreation Area, a designation that would provide National Park System status to several sites around the Chesapeake Bay.

The National Park Service would partner with states, local governments and private entities to establish a voluntary collection of sites that represents the nation’s largest estuary and the diverse communities, culture and history that surround it. Non-participating private and public landholders would not be affected by the proposal, according to the guiding principles released by the Maryland Democrats.

 The Chesapeake Bay watershed. (U.S. Department of Agriculture) 

“This is an opportunity to create a really coordinated visitor experience that includes a diverse set of sites and stories in a way that tells the full narrative of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Reed Perry, manager of external affairs for the Chesapeake Conservancy, a member of the CNRA working group.

“I’m hopeful that the broader community will see these principles and get a better sense of what the goals and the vision are,” Perry said.

The CNRA working group was established in 2021 and is comprised of federal and state lawmakers and over 30 regional stakeholders. The group will collaborate to write a draft bill for public comment over the coming months before introducing the legislation to Congress.

“The Chesapeake Bay is a vital economic engine for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to explore how we can best protect this natural treasure for future generations,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). “This effort will help advance the Bay’s restoration, conserve critical natural historic sites within the region and increase recreational opportunities along the Bay.”

Despite its national significance, the Chesapeake Bay currently lacks any formal National Park System status. “By creating a National Park unit and providing people a chance to engage with the different natural, cultural and historical resources of the bay, we can foster a sense of stewardship for this and future generations,” Perry said.

Evan Visconti is a freelance journalist and photographer, covering environmental news. He graduated from Loyola University Maryland in 2019 and then earned his master’s degree in journalism from Emerson College in 2020. He has reported on stories including offshore wind energy, dairy farming, and tribal land conservation. Contact him at [email protected]

This story originally appeared in the Virginia Mercury.