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A unified Chesapeake National Recreation Area has support of more than 100 stakeholders

Rebecca Barnabi
Chesapeake Bay
(© mandritoiu – stock.adobe.com)

After a six-month comment period and draft legislation announced last fall, legislation was introduced to create a unified Chesapeake National Recreation Area.

Bay watershed residents and stakeholders provided input on the plan during the comment period, and more than 100 support establishment of a CNRA, including local elected officials, environmental and historical preservation groups, economic development organizations, racial justice advocates and seafood and outdoor recreation businesses.

Congressman Rob Wittman of Virginia, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Congressman John Sarbanes of Maryland introduced the legislation, which 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.

“Virginia’s First District relies on a healthy Chesapeake Bay,” Wittman said. “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.”

Van Hollen said the idea to create a CNRA is not new. The idea has been discussed for more than 40 years.

“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 — the introduction of bipartisan Chesapeake National Recreation Area legislation is a significant milestone toward bringing greater national recognition and opportunities to the Bay we cherish,” Van Hollen said. “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 legislation was also introduced by 14 colleagues: Sens. Ben Cardin of Marland, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, Reps. Don Beyer and Gerry Connolly of Virginia, Steny Hoyer and Glenn Ivey of Marland, Jennifer McClellan of Virginia, Kweisi Mfume of Maryland, Eleanor Holmes Norton of D.C., Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, Bobby Scott of Virginia and David Trone of Maryland.

“The Chesapeake Bay is an unrivaled natural resource and national treasure that is invaluable to our region and beyond,” Sarbanes said. “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.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.