Chesapeake Bay Watershed Public Access Plan

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In January, 2013 the National Park Service (NPS) and state partners released the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Public Access Plan.

The plan includes an overview of public access to significant streams, rivers, and bays in the Chesapeake watershed, including portions of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

If implemented, the plan could increase public access to the watershed by more than 20 percent by 2025.

In May 2009, President Obama issued Executive Order 13508 for the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The Executive order instructed the Department of the Interior to make recommendations for expanding public access.

A response strategy issued one year later included a key goal to increase public access to the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries by adding 300 new access sites by 2025 and called for development of a public access plan.

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Public Access Plan includes a comprehensive list of existing public access sites identified by partners and citizens.

The appendix also includes new access sites suggested by citizens and stakeholders through a series of public meetings in Washington, D.C., Richmond, VA, Baltimore, MD, and Harrisburg, PA, and through an interactive online mapping tool.

Key findings of the plan include:

* There are 1,150 documented existing public access sites where people can launch boats, fish, swim, or look out over the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries.

* A number of important shorelines have little or no access.

* No public access exists for nearly 60 miles along the south side of the tidal James River.

* Long stretches exist along the Rappahannock, Potomac, Susquehanna, Nanticoke and other rivers, as well as the shoreline of the Bay where the public has little or no access to the water.

* Multiple studies and plans, including all state outdoor recreation plans, continue to document high public demand for additional access to streams, rivers, and bays.

* 320 specific potential new sites have been identified by citizens for providing public access to the water. Over half of these sites are on publicly owned land.

* Boat launching capacity is the most frequently suggested access type for these sites. Fewer than half of current access sites provide launches or landings for boats or paddlecraft.

* The highest demand for new public access sites is frequently concentrated in and around urban areas.

* A number of potential sites are along existing water trails or national historic trails, which can often bring strong community and local support for developing needed sites.

The plan sets out a series of collaborative actions for moving access development forward and serves as a guide for prioritizing and allocating available funding efficiently.

As specified in the Executive order, recommendations are coordinated with citizens, state and local partners, non-governmental organizations, and with partner sites in the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network and along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail.

for more information, visit: www.baygateways.net/PublicAccess

source: National Park Service

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