Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va), Chris Van Hollen and Congressman John Sarbanes (both D-Md.) led a bicameral group of lawmakers and more than 30 regional organizations in forming a Working Group to explore the designation of a Chesapeake National Recreation Area managed by the National Park Service. 

Despite its ecological importance, iconic landscape, rich culture and history, and vast recreational benefits, the Chesapeake Bay region does not have a unified National Park System designation. Proponents agree that a unified designation provides an opportunity to help conserve the Bay, deliver additional federal resources to the region, and spur economic growth and prosperity across the Watershed. The Working Group, led by Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Sarbanes, will collaborate over the coming months to consider legislation that would designate a unified Chesapeake National Recreation Area. The proposed legislation would be released for public comment.

“The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure and a vital economic engine for the Commonwealth. I am proud to partner with my colleagues and an all-star cast of Bay-related organizations to further elevate the Chesapeake Bay as one our nation’s greatest natural and cultural assets,” said Senator Warner. “This effort will help advance Chesapeake Bay restoration, conserve critical natural and historic sites within the region, and increase recreational opportunities along the Bay.”

“Marylanders know the Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure. Designating a Chesapeake National Recreation Area will highlight that reality – and bring national recognition to the importance of the Bay and its natural, cultural, historical, and recreational significance. This is also a unique chance to bring new resources to protecting the Bay and to generate new opportunities to grow Maryland tourism and outdoor recreation. While this will be a challenging undertaking, I have confidence that this Working Group will unite behind these common goals,” said Senator Van Hollen.  

“Designating a national recreation area in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed could help protect the Bay for future generations and permanently enshrine the Bay as an American treasure,” said Congressman Sarbanes, who co-chairs the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force. “I look forward to working with communities and stakeholders throughout the region – who have worked tirelessly to conserve the Bay – as we explore this important initiative.”

Members of the working group are: 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, 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, the Maryland Marine Trade Association, the Audubon Naturalist Society, Living Classrooms, the Hispanic Access Foundation, Latino Outdoors, Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP), Chispa Maryland, Baltimore Tree Trust, and Black Watermen of the Chesapeake. 

Also involved in this effort are Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Representatives Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Elaine Luria (D-Va.).

“Ensuring greater access to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, including through new federal parks, allows the public to reap the benefits of our resources firsthand, supporting our shared water quality goals,” said Senator Cardin. “Chesapeake Bay restoration has always been a grassroots effort from the ground-up, and I am confident this National Recreation Area pursuit will be no different.”

“It’s important that we work to expand access to recreational opportunities in the Bay area for all and protect Virginia’s beautiful landscapes for future generations,” Senator Kaine said. “I am looking forward to collaborating with this talented and diverse Working Group to achieve these goals.”

“A Chesapeake National Recreation Area would enhance visitors’ experiences in the region, help us to better tell the stories of special places, like Fort Monroe, and bring additional resources to our communities. The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure and I am pleased to participate in the working group to ensure that Virginians and visitors to the Commonwealth are able to enjoy it for generations to come,” said Congressman Bobby Scott.

“The Chesapeake Bay is a vital natural resource for Coastal Virginians and a critical economic engine for the region,” Congresswoman Luria said. “A National Recreation Area designation will protect the Chesapeake Bay for future generations while promoting economic growth and prosperity.”