Cardin introduces permanent authorization for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network


WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.), Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.), and Tom Carper and Chris Coons (both D-Del.) have introduced legislation to permanently authorize the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network run by the National Park Service.


The Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network Continuing Authorization Act (S. 519) would continue the highly successful program that helps visitors connect with and appreciate the Chesapeake Bay. Responsible for boosting local economies through tourism, the collection of parks, wildlife refuges, museums, sailing ships, historic communities and trails over land and water has become an inextricable part of the landscape.


“Ten million people visit Chesapeake Gateways Network sites each year, and competition is consistently strong for the over-subscribed grants awarded by the program. That represents an unmistakably clear mandate for the program’s continuation long into the future,” said Senator Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “The Chesapeake is the economic, historical and cultural heart of our region, and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network is instrumental to helping residents and visitors alike develop lasting appreciations for the Bay’s role in all of our lives.”


“The Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network has created 36 new public access points to the bay in just the last three years,” said Senator Mikulski, Vice-Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee. “That’s 36 new access points to our heritage, to our pride, to our livelihood. That’s why I am so proud to support the Gateways Program again this year. The bay is Maryland’s greatest national treasure and I’ll continue to fight to preserve it and its history, as I have for many years.”


“The Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network links two of Virginia’s greatest economic drivers: tourism and the Chesapeake Bay,” said Senator Warner. “It’s time for Congress to make this successful program permanent.”


“The Chesapeake Bay is one of our most valuable cultural, environmental, and economic assets,” said Senator Kaine. “Permanently authorizing the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network will provide the bay’s residents and visitors numerous opportunities to appreciate its full beauty and importance.”


“A few years back I got some good advice on developing and furthering good public policy: find out what’s working and do more of that,” said Senator Carper, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “This program is clearly working to bring more people to our states to enjoy the natural wonders of the Chesapeake Bay and that’s why I’m pushing for its permanent authorization. It’s critical that we support and protect this precious resource for generations to come.”


“When we strengthen the ties between people and their natural environment, we strengthen conservation efforts and communities at the same time,” Senator Coons said. “For years, the Chesapeake Gateways Network has brought Americans together to enjoy the spectacular beauty of the Chesapeake. In Delaware we see first-hand how important the network is when we visit the beautiful Nanticoke River Water Trail, the Seaford Museum and Trap Pond State Park. There’s nothing partisan about building opportunities for communities to better understand and appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds them, and I’ll work hard to ensure we keep these opportunities around."


The Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network originally was authorized as a pilot program in 1998 and has been reauthorized several times since. The program was most recently reauthorized through 2013 in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012.


The Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails program set up a network of Chesapeake Bay-related sites, such as parks, wildlife refuges, and trails. The Network has grown to 172 sites and water trails in all six states in the Chesapeake Watershed.


The National Park Service provides matching grants between $5,000 and $50,000 for projects that enhance public education on 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 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, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

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