A Chesapeake Bay Watershed Public Access Plan would increase public access by more than 20 percent by 2025.
“The very resource that means Chesapeake or Susquehanna or Potomac to the world has become one that is hard for many people to reach,” according to a statement by the Chesapeake Bay office of the National Park Service.
“Year after year, residents of the Chesapeake watershed repeat the refrain: Access to the water is too limited. Citizens want more places along the water where they can walk, sit, play, picnic, camp, swim, fish, watch wildlife and put in their canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, sailboats and powerboats. It is important to their quality of life.”
The strategy aims to increase public access to the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries by adding 300 new public access sites by 2025. It also calls for the National Park Service to work in conjunction with watershed states, including Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
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, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
The highest demand for new public access sites is frequently concentrated in and around urban areas.
Significant stretches of shoreline have little or no access. For example, there is no public access for nearly 60 miles along the south side of the tidal James River.
Multiple studies and plans, including all state outdoor recreation plans, continue to document high public demand for additional access to streams, rivers and bays.
Boat-launching capacity is the most frequently suggested access type for these sites; 320 specific potential new sites have been identified by citizens for providing public access to the water. More than half of these sites are on publicly owned land.
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.