Chesapeake Bay Public Access Plan Released

The Chesapeake Conservancy today praised the National Park Service for completing a public access plan for the Chesapeake Bay and the watershed’s great rivers. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Public Access Plan reflects the state of public access to significant streams, rivers, and bays in the entire Chesapeake watershed, including portions of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

Today access to the waters of the Bay and its rivers remains limited as significant stretches of the region’s 11,600 mile tidal shoreline have little or no access. Meanwhile, participation in fishing, canoeing, kayaking and other recreational activities continues to grow.

The plan noted a high public demand for camp sites that could be accessed from the water.

“Making a multi-day trip down one of the Bay’s rivers can be difficult without a place to go ashore and camp for the night,” the report said, adding, “Time and again, members of the paddling public expressed a desire for small primitive campsites, picnic areas, and restrooms at appropriate locations along water trails.” The report noted such campsites would provide safety, allow access to historic sites, and boost recreational tourism.

“Camp sites are a key to making the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and the Star Spangled Banner Trail valuable recreational assets,” said Joanna Ogburn, Program Director for the Chesapeake Conservancy. “We applaud the National Park Service and the watershed states for their work on this plan, and look forward to working with them to help implement it. We will also continue to work toward a system of camping spots that will open our rivers and trails for general use.”

The Chesapeake Conservancy was active in drafting the Presidential Executive Order for the Chesapeake Bay, which included a goal of 300 new access sites in the watershed and led to the drafting of the access plan. Since then it has worked with state and local governments, businesses, and non-profit partners to create new access sites, including launch ramps in Fredericksburg and Port Royal on the Rappahannock, Lawrence Lewis Park on the James, and near Cooperstown on the Susquehanna.

“We have developed a Special Places fund that will allow us to continue to work with partners to buy easements or properties to provide access to the trail and protect the region’s historic and culturally significant landscapes,” said Joel Dunn, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Conservancy. “We will continue to work closely with our partner, the National Park Service, and the states to expand access.”

Chesapeake Conservancy is also pursuing the opportunity to create usable public access with paddle boat launch spots and fishing spots at places where roads cross rivers and streams. Efforts are underway at both federal and state level and the Conservancy has built a coalition of groups interested in expanded access.

The access plan, can be downloaded from the National Park Service at