Statement:Bay Access for All

Chesapeake Conservancy Applauds Introduction of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network Reauthorization Act of 2017

Photo by Peter Turcik

Annapolis, MD – Today, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Congressman John Sarbanes (D, MD-03), and Congressman Rob Wittman (R, VA-01) introduced legislation to extend authorization for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails program for an additional six years.  This is significant because Gateways outdoor recreation projects and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail have enhanced the health of our communities, economies and people.

Established by Congress in 1998, the Gateways program enhances conservation stewardship by connecting people with the Chesapeake Bay through outdoor recreation opportunities, exhibits and interpretive trail signage, and youth programs.  Since 2000, the Gateways program has allowed the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office to provide more than $13 million in financial and technical assistance for more than 300 projects in communities in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.  These funds have been matched at least dollar for dollar, resulting in improved Bay access for everyone and fueling the growth of a thriving outdoor recreation industry across the Chesapeake states and Washington, D.C.

Photo by Peter Turcik

Outdoor recreation is one of the region’s most significant economic sectors. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation has a large impact on the states that comprise the Chesapeake watershed.  For example, in Maryland outdoor recreation generates $9.5 billion in consumer spending, 85,000 direct Maryland jobs, $2.8 billion in wages and salaries, and $686 million in state and local tax revenue.  In Virginia, outdoor recreation generates $13.6 billion in consumer spending, provides for 138,000 jobs, $3.9 billion in wages and salaries and $923 million in state and local tax revenue.

Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn issued a statement in support of the bill:

“Thank you to Senator Cardin, Congressman Sarbanes, Congressman Wittman, and to all of the cosponsors for their leadership on the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Reauthorization Act.

“This legislation demonstrates that our Congressional delegation is united in their belief that the Chesapeake Bay is a fundamental part of our culture and that outdoor recreation helps create healthy economies.
“It also recognizes the epic collaboration of our community to protect our lands and waters, invest in our recreation infrastructure and promote outdoor recreation and education across the Chesapeake’s varied landscapes.

“Importantly, in one of his first executive orders, U.S. Secretary of the Department of the Interior Ryan Zinke emphasized the importance of conservation stewardship and public access to outdoor recreation opportunities.  We are confident that the Gateways program is in lock step with this admirable vision.

“We hope that the U.S. Congress and the Trump Administration will ensure the swift passage of this important bill, which will result in more opportunities for outdoor recreation and greater conservation stewardship of the Chesapeake.”

Through the Gateways program, the National Park Service provides grants to communities and organizations who match Gateways grant funding at least one-to-one.   Communities leverage the support of the National Park Service to plan and build outdoor recreation infrastructure like paddle craft boat launches, observational and fishing piers, educational exhibits, and interpretive signage informing people about the history, culture, and wildlife of the Chesapeake.  The Gateways program also supports youth programs that teach children about the ecology and history of the Chesapeake through kayak and canoe trips.

Co-sponsors of the Senate bill include Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Co-sponsors of the House bill include Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D, MD-02), Congressman Anthony Brown (D, MD-04), Congressman Steny Hoyer (D, MD-05), Congressman John Delaney (D, MD-06), Congressman Elijah Cummings (D, MD-07), Congressman Jamie Raskin (D, MD-08), Congressman Rob Wittman (R, VA-01), Congressman Scott Taylor (R, VA-02), Congressman Bobby Scott (D, VA-03), Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R, VA-10), Congressman Gerry Connolly (D, VA-11), and Congressman Don Beyer (D, VA-08).