Chesapeake Conservancy Commends Senate Passage of Legislation Establishing Harriet Tubman National Parks in Maryland and New York

First National Parks to Honor Black Woman Create Large Landscape Conservation for Maryland’s Eastern Shore

Annapolis, MD – Today, the Chesapeake Conservancy commended the Senate passage of legislation containing provisions for the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Maryland and the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in New York.  The provisions are part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.  Having passed the House last week, the legislation will now go to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park will be located both on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and in New York, celebrating where Tubman started and ended her days. In Maryland, the park will span three counties, with 775 acres in Talbot County, 2,200 acres in Caroline County, and 2,775 acres in Dorchester County (this includes 480 acres that the National Park Service already owns). The parcels include her likely birthplace, a plantation parcel where she worked as a young girl and another as a teenager, and the plantation where she escaped slavery in 1849. The New York park will be located at the site of her home in Auburn.

“The Chesapeake Conservancy applauds both the House and the Senate for passing this legislation. Not only does this create the first national parks honoring a Black woman in the United States, it also protects land on Maryland’s Eastern shore that is both environmentally and culturally valuable,” Joel Dunn, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Conservancy, said. “The national park legislation follows the establishment of the designation of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, established by President Obama in 2013, and the nearly complete Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park in Dorchester County.” 

“The Chesapeake Conservancy thanks U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin for their tireless work in establishing these parks. We also appreciate the bipartisan effort with U.S. Representative Andy Harris as this legislation came together in the House,” Dunn continued. “We look forward to the President’s signature and this significant addition to large landscape conservation on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.” 

The Chesapeake Conservancy is part of a broad coalition supporting the designation of these parks. In 2013, the Conservancy partnered with organizations and legislators to advance the Harriet Tubman National Monument in Dorchester County, and launched a campaign of support, including a major online letter writing campaign. The designation of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park is a culmination of years of effort by local, regional and national leaders and will complement nearby conservation efforts, including Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, one of the nation’s premier waterfowl habitats and bird watching destinations.

Tubman was born on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She escaped slavery at age 27, in 1849, but returned to Dorchester and Caroline counties an estimated 13 times over the next decade to help slaves escape to the North. During the Civil War she was a nurse, and in later years Tubman worked for women’s rights.