July 27, 2023

Van Hollen, Sarbanes, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Establish Chesapeake National Recreation Area

Introduction follows public review and comment period on draft legislation released last fall

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen and Congressman John Sarbanes (both D-Md.) introduced their bipartisan, bicameral legislation to create a unified Chesapeake National Recreation Area (CNRA). The bill proposes to unite a series of voluntarily contributed park areas and iconic Bay properties under the operation of the National Park Service (NPS) in order to provide more federal resources for environmental conservation, celebrate the Chesapeake’s diverse cultural and economic history, foster sustainable and equitable access to the Bay, and spur economic growth in the watershed region. Today’s introduction follows a nearly six-month-long comment period on the draft legislation that the lawmakers unveiled last fall, during which Bay watershed residents and stakeholders were invited to share their input on the plan. The effort to establish a CNRA is supported by a wide array of over 100 stakeholders spanning local elected officials, environmental and historical preservation groups, economic development organizations, racial justice advocates, seafood and outdoor recreation businesses, and many more. State and local elected officials who have voiced their support for this effort include Maryland Governor Wes Moore, former Governor Larry Hogan, Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, and State Senator Sarah Elfreth, among others. More than 60 letters from public officials and organizations have been submitted in support of the CNRA proposal; they can be viewed here.

Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Sarbanes were joined in introducing the legislation by 15 of their colleagues: Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Warner, and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.) and U.S. Representatives Don Beyer (D-Va.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.), Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), David Trone (D-Md.), and Rob Wittman (R-Va.).

“The idea of creating a Chesapeake National Recreation Area isn’t new – it’s been discussed for over four decades. But today we’re moving that vision one big step closer to reality. After two years of working together with folks across the Bay – from residents, to environmental advocates, to local officials in Maryland and Virginia, to those who make their living from the bounty of the Bay – today’s introduction of bipartisan Chesapeake National Recreation Area legislation is a significant milestone toward bringing greater national recognition and opportunities to the Bay we cherish,” said Senator Van Hollen. “We’re grateful to the thousands of individuals who shared their thoughts with us on how to make the original proposal even stronger. This feedback not only helped us make sure this bill responds to community needs, it also revealed deep, diverse, and widespread support for what we seek to accomplish by creating this CNRA. We’ll be working hard to get this bill passed in order to mobilize sustainable federal support for Bay restoration, generate more prosperity for those whose livelihoods depend on a vibrant Bay, spotlight its unique story and place in American history, and encourage greater public access to and enjoyment of everything it has to offer.”

“The Chesapeake Bay is an unrivaled natural resource and national treasure that is invaluable to our region and beyond,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “By designating a unified National Recreation Area for the Chesapeake Bay, we are elevating the regional stories that shaped our nation’s history, promoting the spirit of stewardship across the watershed, investing in our economy and protecting the Bay for future generations. I am grateful to the thousands of individuals who have engaged with us over the last several years to help shape this legislation to reflect the priorities of Maryland residents and communities across the watershed. I look forward to the continued collaboration of federal, state, local and private partners as we work to pass this legislation.”

Text of the legislation can be viewed here.


The legislation introduced today by Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Sarbanes was drafted in collaboration with NPS and the lawmakers’ CNRA Working Group, and in alignment with the ten guiding principles laid out last summer. It also incorporates stakeholder feedback on the lawmakers’ discussion draft, released in November 2022. The nearly six-month public comment period also included several listening sessions with groups such as local elected officials, neighborhood community organizations, and interested parties across the watershed.

Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Sarbanes worked with the CNRA Working Group to review the feedback received from all sources to determine how to best ensure the legislative text as introduced addresses the public’s concerns and suggestions. In response to concerns related to potential traffic increases around neighborhoods near CNRA sites, the lawmakers added provisions directing NPS to conduct traffic planning assistance in a way that prioritizes water and trail access and includes community input in the process. Several additional minor technical edits were made as well. An outline of the changes can be viewed here.

Broadly, the CNRA would consist of NPS sites and “partner sites” – park areas on the Bay that currently exist and voluntarily “opt-in” to participate in the CRNA. These would be an official part of the visitor experience and would benefit from National Park Service branding and resources. Participation in the CNRA is completely voluntary and partner sites would not be owned by the National Park Service. The first historic sites of regional importance proposed to be in the CNRA network include Burtis House, Whitehall, and Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse in Annapolis, Maryland; and the North Beach of Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.

This designation will not impose any additional regulations on recreational or business activities in the Chesapeake Bay waters, and the National Park Service’s authority will not supersede state authority on these matters.

The CNRA will broaden public access to the Chesapeake Bay and strengthen the culture of stewardship across the region. Additionally, the CNRA will highlight the stories that often go untold – those of Indigenous peoples; free and enslaved Blacks; the role the Bay played in the earliest days of the Maryland and Virginia Colonies; the key part the Bay has played, and continues to play, in the region’s economy; and the story of watermen and -women who are essential to the economic success and health of the Bay region. Everyone who resides in the watershed has an important role in Bay conservation and culture.

More details about this initiative can be viewed at https://www.vanhollen.senate.gov/CNRA

Additional Support for the CNRA:

Generations of Marylanders’ stories are connected by memories formed while working, playing and living on the Chesapeake Bay. This designation will honor and build on those legacies by making the Bay’s resources more accessible, allowing visitors to better interact with the watershed and understand the importance of environmental stewardship,” said Senator Cardin. “With the expertise of the National Park Service and other key stakeholders on natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation, we are investing in the long-term prosperity of the Bay.”

“The Chesapeake Bay is synonymous with Virginia, with generations enjoying all that the Bay has to offer,” said Senator Warner. “I’m proud to introduce legislation that will highlight the importance of the Bay, celebrate the diverse cultural and economic history that encompasses it, and help deliver federal resources to assist with the restoration and conservation of its environment.”

“With its rich history and important role in the region’s ecology and economy, the Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure,” said Senator Kaine. “By aiding conservation efforts, improving public access, and encouraging economic growth in the region, creating a Chesapeake National Recreation Area would bring national recognition to the Bay and help ensure Virginians can enjoy it for generations to come.”

“The Chesapeake Bay is a vital, diverse ecosystem and serves as a rich cultural and economic hub for our region. There is no doubt it stands as a national treasure that must be protected and preserved,” said Rep. Beyer. “A National Park Service designation as the Chesapeake National Recreation Area will help secure the resources necessary to strengthen conservation efforts, increase public access, and continue delivering economic benefits to our region for years to come. I’m proud to support this legislation and thank Rep. John Sarbanes and Sen. Chris Van Hollen for their leadership on this issue.”

“Designating the Chesapeake Bay area as a National Recreation Area is an important recognition of all the Chesapeake provides to our region,” said Rep. Connolly. “This federal designation will bring together all of the Bay’s stakeholders to increase and improve public access to its wildlife and natural beauty, as well as provide more federal funding to help preserve this vital ecosystem and its history, which is intertwined with our founding.”

“The Chesapeake Bay is the beating heart of Maryland and one of America's national treasures,” Rep. Hoyer said. “Designating the Chesapeake Bay as a National Recreation Area will ensure that we can preserve the Bay's cultural, economic, and natural resources for generations to come. I am proud to join my colleagues in the Maryland delegation in supporting this legislation to establish the Chesapeake Bay National Recreation Area and to continue protecting Maryland's public lands and waters.”

“I whole-heartedly support designating a Chesapeake National Recreation Area.  This will bring added recognition to the largest estuary in the United States, our local treasure, the Chesapeake Bay.  Further, this status bestowed upon the Bay will provide resources to support its natural and recreational significance. The CNRA helps to promote the cultural and historical significance of this all-important waterway fostering a healthy ecosystem and habitat, conserving, and protecting lands.  It will bolster better stewardship of the environment and enhance eco-literacy, while highlighting climate resiliency,” said Rep. Ivey. “Additionally, from an educational standpoint, the CNRA will highlight histories often bypassed in books – those of Native Americans; free and enslaved Blacks; the role the Bay played in the inception of our marvelous state of Maryland,” added Ivey.

“The Chesapeake Bay is a key driver for economic growth in our region and supports robust tourism, recreation, commerce, and shipping industries that provide over $100 billion dollars in economic value annually,” said Rep. McClellan. “It is also a vibrant source of biodiversity and a crucial natural resource that must be protected by the devastating effects of our worsening climate crisis. I am proud to support this critical legislation to designate the Chesapeake National Recreation Area as part of the National Park System to shore up federal resources and protections of our waterways while increasing public access to the Bay.”

“I am honored to be an original cosponsor of this legislation, which brings national recognition to the Chesapeake Bay and highlights the Bay’s impact on our environment, culture, and history. The Chesapeake National Recreation Area designation will increase tourism to our State and amplify untold stories of the Bay, beginning from the earliest days of Maryland’s history. I applaud this effort to bolster Maryland’s economy and celebrate such an integral part of our state,” said Rep. Mfume.

“I am proud to support this bill designating a Chesapeake National Recreation Area,” said Rep. Norton. “I have always prioritized preservation of parkland and encouraged community engagement. The Advisory Commission this bill would create would act as a liaison between the communities and NPS as the agency works to establish a CNRA. The various interests in the Bay, including commercial and recreational fishing, environmental justice, agriculture, youth, education, and Tribal representatives will be duly represented in this Advisory Commission.”

“The Chesapeake is a natural jewel and a national treasure, and I strongly support its designation as a National Recreation Area,” said Rep. Raskin. “I’ve enjoyed the verdant wonder of the Bay since I was a child, and a National Recreation Area designation will ensure that future generations of Americans will be able to experience the joy of the Bay, its historical significance and its fundamental ecological importance. Assigning the Chesapeake Bay this important designation will honor our commitments to conservation and yield new opportunities for sustainable tourism while fostering local economies and promoting outdoor recreation. I’m thankful to my colleagues Congressman Sarbanes and Senator Van Hollen for their leadership in authoring this crucial legislation.”

“Saving the Chesapeake Bay means saving jobs,” Rep. Ruppersberger said. “Creating a national park designation for the Chesapeake will deliver additional federal resources right when we need it most – as we launch a new restoration strategy to create more economy opportunities for the countless Marylanders whose lives depend on a healthy Bay. I want to salute my Maryland congressional teammates, Congressman John Sarbanes and Senator Chris Van Hollen, for introducing this legislation that will help ensure the Bay remains a vital resource for generations to come.”

“As a co-chair of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force, I am proud to have partnered with my colleagues and stakeholders in a collaborative process to draft this legislation. In too many places throughout the watershed, communities do not have access to parks and beaches to fully enjoy the Chesapeake Bay,” said Rep. Scott. “The creation of a Chesapeake National Recreation Area would elevate the history, recreational opportunities, and natural beauty of the Chesapeake Bay for locals, while also fostering regional tourism. I am particularly pleased with the inclusion of historic Fort Monroe as a CNRA hub to enhance park access in Hampton Roads.”

“The Chesapeake Bay is essential to Maryland’s way of life. Every year, millions of folks visit the Bay to experience its rich culture, and as climate change continues to impact the environment, we must step up to protect this vital ecosystem,” said Rep. Trone. “Designating the Chesapeake Bay as a part of the National Park System will ensure that Marylanders can enjoy the Bay’s recreation, build on its history, and depend on its jobs for generations to come.”

“Virginia’s First District relies on a healthy Chesapeake Bay,” said Rep. Wittman. “The designation of a Chesapeake Recreation Area would encourage access to the Bay and attract tourists, outdoor enthusiasts, and businesses – all of which are significant contributors to the region’s economy and overall well-being. As a longstanding advocate of the Bay, I’m proud to join my colleagues on this legislation to elevate the stewardship and sustainability of this national treasure.”

“I thank Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Sarbanes for your partnership and your work in drafting this legislation to highlight the national significance of the Chesapeake Bay. Annapolis is ready to play its part and I whole-heartedy support this Bill. I would encourage your Congressional colleagues to support its passage also. It offers a unique opportunity to foster access, resources, and economic growth and deliver hugely significant regional and national benefits,” said Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley.

“The Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation (AAEDC) writes to express our support for the proposed Chesapeake National Recreation Area (CNRA) as part of the National Park System. The Chesapeake National Recreation Area designation achieves multiple policy goals of ecological stewardship, historic and cultural preservation, economic development, and equity. AAEDC appreciates and supports your efforts to deliver resources to one of Anne Arundel’s key economic assets and create a regional amenity that the public can enjoy and celebrate,” said Anne Arundel County Economic Development Corporation President & CEO Amy Gowan.

“I am thrilled to join my fellow local, state, and federal elected officials to support the creation of the Chesapeake National Recreation Area, which provides a pathway for better preservation and better access to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman. “Greater public access would boost our local economy, increase residents’ understanding of our shared history, and underscore our collective duty to protect and preserve this national treasure.”

“The Chesapeake National Recreation Area will tell the stories of the nation’s largest estuary and one of the world’s largest environmental restoration efforts, including the people and communities that have been essential to it,” said Baltimore City Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “Baltimore has always made the Chesapeake Bay a central part of our draw as a destination, whether it be our Inner Harbor, our best in the world seafood, or our proximity to some of the most beautiful waterways in the country. Creating the Chesapeake National Recreation Area will just further solidify the Bay as one of our great treasures, aid our efforts to protect it, and strengthen local businesses across our great city.”

“The Chesapeake region features an incredible array of rich historic and cultural resources, and improving and expanding our parks for their exploration and enjoyment is a priority for us in Baltimore County,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. “I fully support and appreciate Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Sarbanes’ efforts to establish a Chesapeake National Recreation Area as a unit of the National Park Service to preserve and promote the natural and recreational amenities which make Baltimore County, and by extension, the entire Chesapeake Region unique.”

“The collaborative nature of the CNRA is commendable. By leveraging partnerships between the National Park Service, states, and localities, the CNRA ensures that existing sites and resources are put to the best use in safeguarding the Bay's delicate ecosystem. Furthermore, by highlighting the diverse groups of people living around the Chesapeake Bay, the CNRA will foster an inclusive approach to conservation that respects and cherishes the region's rich cultural heritage,” said the Charles County Board of Commissioners.

“This thoughtful and carefully crafted legislation is a win for everyone. It is a smart investment of federal resources that will directly benefit Maryland economically, environmentally, and culturally, while adding the treasure of the Chesapeake as an asset of the National Park System,” said Frederick County Executive Jessica Fitzwater.

“Howard County’s proximity to the Chesapeake Bay is part of our identity and we remain committed to responsible, environmental stewardship. As our country’s largest estuary, the Bay deserves the protections and increased federal resources that would come with the Chesapeake National Recreation Area designation,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball.

“With its rich history, ecological significance, and abundant recreational opportunities, Maryland's Chesapeake Bay is a treasured asset that is vital to our state's heritage, culture and economy. By supporting the establishment of a unified Chesapeake National Recreational Area designation, we can leverage federal resources to help conserve, celebrate and provide access to this important resource, while also driving economic growth through job creation, new business opportunities, and ecotourism. This is a critical opportunity to strengthen our state's economy while preserving and providing access to this remarkable and storied natural resource,” said Maryland Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Mary D. Kane.

“A Chesapeake Bay National Recreation Area would provide an incredible opportunity to showcase Maryland's significant cultural, environmental, historical, and natural resources, and provide an international platform for the State of Maryland and the broader Chesapeake Bay watershed. My Administration has worked to preserve our waterways by funding instrumental programs to help enhance and protect the Chesapeake Bay, while prioritizing environmental justice for the low-income communities and communities of color. Historically, these communities in the Chesapeake region often suffer disproportionate impacts of environmental hazards. A NPS designation would help reduce these barriers and provide greater access to all the Chesapeake Bay has to offer while coordinating with local communities to support their needs. I look forward to working together in the effort to enhance, protect and restore this resource so that future generations can enjoy both the beauty and bounty of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Maryland Governor Wes Moore.

“Establishing a Chesapeake National Recreational Area is not only a significant step towards safeguarding this invaluable resource, but also an opportunity to foster environmental awareness and promote sustainable recreation. Under the stewardship of our remarkable National Park Service, I am confident this action will highlight the landscape and the national significance of our country’s largest estuary,” said Maryland State Delegate Dana Jones (D-D30A).

“I strongly encourage Congress to pass the authorization creating the Chesapeake National Recreation Area - the nation’s largest estuary and one of the world’s largest environmental restoration efforts,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “We in Montgomery County are proud to support this effort and appreciate the advocacy and leadership of Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Sarbanes and the rest of the Maryland Congressional Delegation to improve the environment, economic development, and quality of life for all Marylanders. The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure and deserves the respect and recognition this designation will provide.”

“We are proud to support legislation that would create a Chesapeake National Recreation Area, helping us protect, preserve, and celebrate the Chesapeake Bay. Designating a Chesapeake National Recreation Area would also boost our regional economy while increasing access to this important area for local residents and visitors from across the country. A national recreation area would be historic for Maryland, and we look forward to working with our federal partners to help tell the story of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.

“The Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce strongly supports your efforts to establish this National Recreation Area which will foster public access to this national treasure while spurring critical economic growth for the region,” said Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce President & CEO William Chambers.

“The CNRA will highlight the key part the Bay played, and continues to play, in the region's economy and the story of watermen and -women who are essential to the economic success and health of the Bay region. This will spark environmentally conscious tourism that supports those in the food, lodging, outdoor recreation, etc.,” said Somerset County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Daniel Thompson.

Additional current and former public officials, local governments, and economic development groups supporting the CNRA are: Beach to Bay Heritage Greenway, Calvert County Board of Commissioners, Chestertown Mayor David Foster, Chickahominy Tribe, Easton Mayor Megan Cook, Former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Former Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, Greater Salisbury Committee, Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway, Maryland State Senator Sarah Elfreth (D-SD-30A/B), Nansemond Tribe, and Rappahannock Tribe Chief Anne Richardson. Letters of support from many of these officials and groups can be found here.

Endorsements of the CNRA Initiative:

“Establishing the CNRA will allow all stories of the watershed, its citizens, and its history to be shared with visitors from across the world. The creation of the CNRA will enhance public understanding of the Bay at participating National Park Service sites and partner sites to tell the story of the outstanding, remarkable, and nationally significant resources of the Bay watershed,” said Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation Founder and President Vince Leggett.

“Creating a Chesapeake National Recreation Area (CNRA) is an idea whose time has come. Our region’s history is as diverse as its people. Yet many of their stories and contributions, particularly those of people of color, are not well known or appreciated. The CNRA would help elevate those untold stories, share them with more people, and foster a sense of collective responsibility for this national treasure. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation thanks Sen. Van Hollen and Rep. Sarbanes for their leadership on this important legislation. We are proud to support their efforts,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Federal Director Keisha Sedlacek.

“Thank you, Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Sarbanes, for making a more than 30-year-long dream come true. The Chesapeake Bay is as spectacular as Yellowstone or Yosemite, as great as the Great Smokies and as grand as the Grand Tetons. Establishing the Chesapeake National Recreation Area expands resources for environmental protection, and makes it clear that the United States cherishes the Chesapeake, the birthplace of American identity. As a great gift to future generations, this legislation ensures everyone’s right to visit and recreate on our nation’s largest estuary while balancing the needs of those who live here and depend on the bay for their livelihood,” said Chesapeake Conservancy President & CEO Joel Dunn.

“After several years of planning, we are thrilled to see legislation introduced that would create the Chesapeake National Recreation Area. The CRNA would increase diverse public access to the iconic Chesapeake Bay and its many rivers and streams, strengthening the culture of stewardship across the region. Promoting and expanding public access to this national treasure is critical to meeting our clean water goals. Future generations cannot save what they don’t know. Crucially, including the Chesapeake region as a new unit of the National Park System will create opportunities to expand recreational access to water in underserved communities throughout the region and commemorate the rich culture and contributions of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color that have lacked recognition throughout history. We want to thank Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) for their leadership on the CNRA. We look forward to working with all members of the Chesapeake Bay watershed’s congressional delegation to pass this legislation,” said Choose Clean Water Coalition Director Mariah Davis.

“Our public lands tell our nation’s story and the natural resources they contain enrich our lives.  The Chesapeake National Recreation Area will do just that by preserving vignettes about all the people throughout history who have enjoyed this magnificent setting and its tremendous resources.  I greatly appreciate the leadership from U.S. Senator Van Hollen, U.S. Representative Sarbanes and the rest of the Bay’s Congressional Delegations as they have patiently worked with residents to put forward a sensible, balanced, and inclusive proposal that both provides public access and protects private property rights. Going back to our founding by Pat Noonan in 1985, The Conservation Fund has consistently worked with partners and residents alike to protect the Chesapeake, and we are thrilled with this long-standing vision becoming a reality," said The Conservation Fund President & CEO Larry Selzer.

“The Southern Maryland National Heritage Area is in full support of the efforts by Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Sarbanes to establish a Chesapeake National Recreation Area. Southern Maryland is a peninsula with over a thousand miles of shoreline, with the Chesapeake Bay on one side and the Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary on the other side. The establishment of the Chesapeake National Recreation Area combined with the newly designated Southern Maryland National Heritage Area will help ensure that the story of the people of the region, access to the resources of the region, and the cultural stewardship of the region, are a priority for years to come,” said Destination Southern Maryland Executive Director Lucille Walker.

“The inclusion of Fort Monroe in this legislation recognizes the significant history and unique location of this property on the Chesapeake Bay,” said Fort Monroe Authority Executive Director Glenn Oder. “It’s appropriate that it should be part of the public discussion.”

“The need for Latinos to breathe fresh air and enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of the Chesapeake is greater than ever. Our research found that in the Chesapeake region, Latinos and other people of color are more than three times more likely to be deprived of nearby nature than white people. We applaud Senator Van Hollen and Representative Sarbanes’ proposed steps to provide more avenues for our communities to recreate outdoors, connect with nature, and spend time with their loved ones. Investing in nearby nature will create jobs, enrich our children’s education, improve public health, protect from the climate emergency, and safeguard clean air, water, and a healthy environment for all,” said Hispanic Access Foundation President and CEO Maite Arce.

“Maryland League of Conservation Voters recognizes that making the Chesapeake Bay accessible to more people is integral in inspiring support for its protection and long term viability. We support the establishment of this new national recreation area as an opportunity to provide greater access to the Bay and education about its place as an invaluable resource for this region. We look forward to working with you to ensure that the Chesapeake is recognized for its natural and historic significance by inclusion in the National Park System,” said Maryland League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Kim Coble.

“We applaud Senator Chris Van Hollen and Rep. John Sarbanes for their leadership toward designating a Chesapeake National Recreation Area,” said National Aquarium Chief Mission Officer Jennifer Driban. “The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure, and this designation will formally recognize the significance of our nation’s largest estuary, increase investment that supports recreation and conservation, and foster better public access and connection across the diverse landscapes and communities of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We appreciate and support the specific focus on expanding recreational opportunities among underserved communities and ensuring that the voices and stories of Indigenous peoples and communities of color are centered throughout the effort.”

“As Maryland’s oldest, largest, and most effective preservation organization, we work to protect Maryland’s unique and irreplaceable heritage. Establishing the Chesapeake Bay as a National Recreation Area helps to preserve this historic landscape and will celebrate the Bay’s diverse history and culture. We thank you for your leadership, and we strongly support the establishment of this new national recreation area, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that the Chesapeake is recognized for its natural and historic significance by inclusion in the National Park System,” said Preservation Maryland President & CEO Nicholas Redding.

“The CNRA is a big idea whose time has come. The Chesapeake Bay watershed is a natural wonder fully deserving of national park status. Preservation Virginia joins the growing coalition of preservation, conservation, recreational, and environmental organizations in Virginia and Maryland to support this effort,” said Preservation Virginia CEO Elizabeth Kostelny.

Additional endorsers include ABS Group, Ad Hoc, LLC, Alice Ferguson Foundation, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, American Sportfishing Association, Annapolis Green, Bay Paddle, Black by Nature, Blue Oyster Environmental LLC, Blue Water Baltimore, Brandywine Foundation, Capital Region Land Conservancy, Chesapeake Bay Commission, Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound School, Chesapeake Legal Alliance, Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB), Chispa Maryland, Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park, Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, Conservation International, Corazon Latino, Defensores de la Cuenca, DockShare, EcoLatinos, Elizabeth River Project, Friends of the Rappahannock, Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, Healthy Planet LLC, Historic Annapolis, Inn at Tabbs Creek, James River Association, Latino Outdoors, Living Classrooms, Morgan State University P.E.A.R.L. Facility, National Park Trust, National Parks Conservation Association, National Preservation Institute, National Recreation and Parks Association, Newport News Shipbuilding, NMMA, Northern Neck Planning District Commission, Outward Bound, Oyster Recovery Partnership, Park Institute of America, Potomac Conservancy, Public Lands Alliance, REI, Scenic Virginia, Scharle Outdoor Recreation Consulting, LLC, Severn River Association, Shellfish Growers of Virginia, Shenandoah National Park Trust, ShoreRivers (Chester, Choptank, Mile-Wye & Sassafras Riverkeepers), Sierra Club, Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP), Stratford Hall, Surfrider Foundation, Susquehannock Wildlife Society, TeraWulf Charitable Foundation, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society, Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse (U.S. Lighthouse Society), Trust for Public Land, Virginia Eastern Shore Land Trust, Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, Virginia Oyster Trail, Virginia Tourism, Visit Annapolis, Washington College, Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Yield Camp, and Youth Sailing Virginia. Letters of support from many of these organizations can be found here.

Further Background on the Initiative to Establish a CNRA:

The concept of the Chesapeake National Recreation Area has been discussed as far back as the 1980s, spurred by an op-ed in the Capital Gazette and work by Anne Arundel County Executive Jim Lighthizer and followed in the 1990s by the efforts of Senator Paul Sarbanes. Driven by Senator Sarbanes, in 2004, the National Park Service (NPS) released a special resource study which found that the Chesapeake Bay is ‘unquestionably nationally significant and a major part of the nation’s heritage.” Shortly after his election to the Senate, Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Sarbanes began discussing the possibility of a designated Chesapeake National Recreation Area. In 2019, the lawmakers began working on the effort requesting drafting service from NPS to pursue a national recreation area designation for the Chesapeake Bay. The effort has garnered widespread bipartisan support, and in 2020, then-Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and then-Virginia Governor Ralph Northam shared their backing of the concept in letters to Congress. Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Sarbanes continued to pursue the effort, and in 2021 formally announced a Working Group to foster further discussion with stakeholders and community members on the project. Then in June 2022, the lawmakers released a set of guiding principles to serve as a foundation for the draft proposal, followed by a discussion draft bill for public comment in November 2022. The introduction of bipartisan, bicameral legislation is the next significant milestone in this historic process.

Full list of CNRA working group members: Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Representatives Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.), the State of Maryland; the Commonwealth of Virginia; Chesapeake Conservancy; the Chesapeake Bay Commission; the National Parks Conservation Association; Choose Clean Water Coalition; the Conservation Fund; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; Maryland League of Conservation Voters; the Nature Conservancy; Potomac Conservancy; REI; the National Trust for Historic Preservation; the American Sportfishing Association; the National Marine Manufacturing Association; the Watermen of Maryland; the Sport Fishing Commission; Historic Annapolis; Oyster Recovery Partnership; Blue Oyster Environmental LLC; Preservation Virginia; Shellfish Growers of Virginia; the James River Association; Virginia Interfaith Power & Light; Marine Trades Association of Maryland; the Audubon Naturalist Society; Living Classrooms; the Hispanic Access Foundation; Latino Outdoors; Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP); Chispa Maryland; Baltimore Tree Trust; Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation, Clean Chesapeake Coalition, Verna Harrison Associates, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission; the National Aquarium; Morgan State University Patuxent Environmental & Aquatic Research Laboratory; the Wilderness Society; the Brandywine Foundation; the United States Lighthouse Society; and the Fort Monroe Authority.