A new program will help people visiting parks, historic sites and wild lands in Maryland this summer discover “links” to the Chesapeake that they might not have known about.

The state has identified 29 sites around the Chesapeake as “Bay Links.” The program, which includes such sites as Susquehanna State Park, the Patuxent Research Refuge, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and Pemberton Historical Park, allows visitors to not only learn about sites individually, but also how they connect to the Bay.

Bay Link is a combined project of Maryland’s Departments of Natural Resources and Business and Economic Development. The agencies have produced a map showing how to reach Bay Link sites and a passport booklet that lets people check off each site as they visit it.

The materials emphasize the notion of watershed, and how each site influences the Bay and downstream areas.

“It helps us with a connection between the water and the land,” said Gov. Parris Glendening in announcing the program. “It’s a connection that runs all the way from the [Bay’s] deep trench to Cunningham Falls to the Catoctin Mountains, that links it all together.”

By emphasizing how each site contributes to the health of the Bay, Glendening said the program will help people realize their role in protecting the Chesapeake by protecting the land around it.

“If there is one story that we hope to get across,” Glendening said, “it’s that the challenges and the problems that face the Bay and other areas of the water all start on the land.”

For now, most of the sites are relatively close to the Bay, but officials say the program may add sites further up the watershed in future years.

“The more Bay Link sites residents and visitors explore, the greater their understanding of the Bay ecosystem and their connection to the plants and animals that depend on it,” said Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin.

About 50,000 Bay Link brochures and field guides will be available at state parks, welcome centers and local tourism offices in all Maryland counties and the City of Baltimore.

More information is available on the Internet at: www.dnr.state.md.us/baylinks