Va and Md Legislators introduce legislation to form Unified Chesapeake National Recreation Area

August 5, 2023
Chesapeake Bay Boating

Senator Chris Van Hollen and Congressman John Sarbanes (both D-Md.) introduced their bipartisan, bicameral legislation to create a unified Chesapeake National Recreation Area (CNRA). The bill 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. Today’s introduction follows a nearly six-month-long comment period on the draft legislation that the lawmakers unveiled last fall, during which Bay watershed residents and stakeholders were invited to share their input on the plan. The effort to establish a CNRA is supported by a wide array of over 100 stakeholders spanning local elected officials, environmental and historical preservation groups, economic development organizations, racial justice advocates, seafood and outdoor recreation businesses, and many more. State and local elected officials who have voiced their support for this effort include Maryland Governor Wes Moore, former Governor Larry Hogan, Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, and State Senator Sarah Elfreth, among others. More than 60 letters from public officials and organizations have been submitted in support of the CNRA proposal; they can be viewed here.

Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Sarbanes were joined in introducing the legislation by 15 of their colleagues: Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Warner, and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.) and U.S. Representatives Don Beyer (D-Va.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.), Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), David Trone (D-Md.), and Rob Wittman (R-Va.).

“The idea of creating a Chesapeake National Recreation Area isn’t new – it’s been discussed for over four decades. 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 – today’s introduction of bipartisan Chesapeake National Recreation Area legislation is a significant milestone toward bringing greater national recognition and opportunities to the Bay we cherish,” said Senator Van Hollen. “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 Chesapeake Bay is an unrivaled natural resource and national treasure that is invaluable to our region and beyond,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “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.”

Text of the legislation can be viewed here.

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