Bicameral, Bipartisan Effort of Lawmakers from Maryland, Virginia and Delaware Seeks to Preserve Successful Chesapeake Gateways Partnership
(Washington, DC) – Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger today announced his cosponsorship of legislation to reauthorize the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails program run by the National Park Service. The bipartisan, bicameral effort would continue a successful program that helps visitors appreciate the far-reaching role the Chesapeake Bay has had in our region's culture and history while boosting our tourism economy.
The Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network is a state, local, and federal partnership of 172 Chesapeake sites, parks, wildlife refuges and water trails that offer interpretation, education, youth employment, recreation, public access to the Chesapeake Bay and rivers, and trailheads for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake and Star-Spangled Banner national historic trails. Originally authorized as a pilot program in 1998, the program has been reauthorized several times since. The program was most recently reauthorized through 2013 in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 202.
“As a House Appropriator and a Maryland native, this program is a no-brainer,” Congressman Ruppersberger said. “These grants help attract volunteers and visitors to the Chesapeake Bay, both boosting Maryland tourism and cultivating a deeper appreciation of one of our nation’s greatest natural treasures. We are essentially recruiting new stewards to help conserve the Bay for generations to come.”
Visitation at Chesapeake Gateways sites exceeds 10 million people annually, and the competitive grants program is oversubscribed every year. The National Park Service provides matching grants between $5,000 and $50,000 for projects that enhance public education of and access to the Chesapeake Bay. Only sites that have gone through a rigorous review process and have been formally selected as part of the Gateway and Watertrails Network are eligible for the competitive grants.
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America, with a length of 200 miles and 11,684 miles of tidal shoreline, more than the entire U.S. West Coast. About 100,000 streams and rivers thread through the Chesapeake’s 64,000-square-mile watershed, which is home to almost 17 million people across Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York and the District of Columbia.
The legislation has been introduced by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Representative John Sarbanes (D-Md.-03), a member of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, and Representative Rob Wittman (R-Va.-01), a senior member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, in both the Senate (S. 1430) and the House of Representatives (H.R. 3063).
Other original cosponsors of the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails reauthorization include: Tom Carper, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Chris Coons (both D-Del.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.). In the House, original cosponsors include: Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.-05), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.-07), John K. Delaney (D-Md.-06), Bobby Scott (D-Va.-03), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.-11), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.-08), Barbara Comstock (R-Va.-10), Scott Taylor (R-Va.-02), Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.-04), Don Beyer (D-Va.-08).
“The Chesapeake Bay is the economic, historical and cultural heart of our region. The Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network is instrumental to making the entire Bay experience accessible, attractive and enjoyable for Marylanders and all Americans," said Senator Cardin. "I am proud of our regional effort to continue federal support for this important program supporting the natural gateways to the Chesapeake Bay, despite the president’s efforts to zero out funding.”
“The Chesapeake Gateways program is an important federal vehicle for safeguarding public parks, trails, wildlife refuges, museums and historic sites that are part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed,” said Congressman Sarbanes, co-chair of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Caucus. “These public spaces not only play a key role in the restoration and protection of the Bay, but also provide residents with more access and deeper connections to it. In order to inspire the next generations of citizen stewards and to ensure that the Bay remains an environmental treasure for future generations, we must support important initiatives like the Gateways program.”