WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski announced today that the National Park Service will make $739,000 in funding available for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Program and Watertrails Network this year, including funds to begin implementing the new Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
The Gateways Network is a partnership system of parks, refuges, maritime museums, historic seaports and water trails where people can experience and learn about the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. The program was conceived as a mechanism for improving public access, and enhancing public education and stewardship of the many natural, cultural and historical resources of the Bay region.
“The Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network is unique because it brings volunteers, parks, historic sites, wildlife refuges, museums and water trails together to ensure that visitors can experience the fullness of life along the Chesapeake Bay,” said Senator Cardin, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “We in Maryland have a special heritage and it is important that we share that heritage and history with all Americans.”
“The Chesapeake Bay is part of who we are as Marylanders – our heritage and our culture. I am proud to support the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Program and Watertrails Network and the creation of the John Smith Trail so that visitors can enjoy and appreciate this national treasure and Maryland’s greatest natural resource,” said Senator Mikulski. “As a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, which funds the National Park Service, I will continue to fight to put money in the federal checkbook to protect and preserve the Bay for future generations.”
Since its creation in 1998, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network has grown to encompass 156 Gateways in six states and the District of Columbia, and more than 1,500 miles of established and developed trails. Grants made available under the Program have funded more than 200 projects, including exhibits, new interpretive or orientation brochures, educational programs, water and land trails, and related access improvements.
It is anticipated that funds being made available this year may be used, in part, to support the development of the new Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT, the first national water trail in the United States, commemorating the exploratory voyages of Captain Smith on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in 1607-1609. Projects could include welcome and visitor center exhibits orienting visitors to John Smith programming; expanded interpretation of 17th Century Native American culture; water and land access improvements and connections between the John Smith water trail and over land driving routes; and regional marking of Smith-related events and Gateways, among other things.
Senators Mikulski, Warner and Webb, joined Senator Cardin in a letter in February to the Secretary of the Interior urging him to provide funds for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT. The Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network has approximately 10 million visitors a year to more than 109 exhibits in Maryland Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and the District of Columbia.