Chesapeake Gateways

Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Program – Funding for Public Access on the John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

The National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails program is the most important federal program supporting public access in the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Conservancy is fighting to protect funding so there are more places to access and learn about this national treasure in our own backyard.

The Chesapeake Bay has a public access deficit.

  • There are 11,684 miles of shoreline in the Chesapeake Bay; however, 98% of the Chesapeake’s shoreline is privately owned.
  • 18 million people reside in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and 10 million people live along or near the shoreline.
  • Because so much of the land is privately held, there are limited opportunities for people to get out on the water and experience the natural beauty of Chesapeake Bay.
Currently, only about 2% of the Chesapeake’s shorelines are publicly accessible.

The Gateways program is essential to expanding public access sites in the Chesapeake Bay.

The program was established by Congress in 1998 to help the National Park Service and its partners connect people to the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. NPS uses Gateways funding to provide technical and financial assistance to communities and organizations to increase public access to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. They accomplish this through physical infrastructure (such as kayak and boat launches, fishing piers) and interpretive infrastructure (such as signage).

The Gateways program has allowed the National Park Service (NPS) Chesapeake Bay Office to provide approximately $22 million in financial and technical assistance for more than 360 projects in communities across the watershed, improving Bay access and fueling our thriving outdoor recreation economy.

The Gateways program assists with development and enhancement of:

  • Physical infrastructure (kayak and boat launches, fishing piers)
  • Interpretive infrastructure (signage, exhibits, and other media)
  • Youth education programs

Outdoor Recreation is a

booming industry.

Table listing annual consumer spending, wages and salaries, state and local tax revenue, and direct jobs generated by the outdoor industry in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware.

State Consumer Spending Wages and Salaries State/Local Tax Revenue Direct Jobs
Pennsylvania $29.1 billion $8.6 billion $1.9 billion 251,000
Virginia $21.9 billion $6.5 billion $1.2 million 197,000
Maryland $14 billion $4.4 billion $951 million 109,000
Delaware $3.1 billion $959 million $145 million 29,000

(Source: Outdoor Industry Association)

Highlighted Projects

Pennsylvania – Susquehanna Heritage Zimmerman Center

$100K grant from NPS helped Zimmerman leverage $1.4 million of other money to complete a water trail access guide in 2003, followed by 21 interpretive panels up and down the Susquehanna River. Later grants supported building restoration to cater to visitors, programming for informational lectures, and the creation of a boat launch and dock.

Virginia – Menokin

NPS created access to local creek and soft launch. Funding supported planning and design ($70K) and a second grant ($100K) supported construction and implementation of a canoe/kayak access, construction of an access road and parking, and interpretive signage. Having access to the creek has allowed Menokin to enhance its environmental education program and create new partnerships.

Maryland – Sultana Education Foundation

The Gateways program allowed Sultana to create an education program centered on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. They host 10,000 K-12 students each year who learn about the environmental science & history of the Chesapeake Bay.