A draft Chesapeake Bay Watershed Public Access Plan is available for public review until Sept. 14.
The plan was developed in response to a federal Bay restoration strategy required under an executive order issued by President Obama in 2009. The strategy called for increasing public access to the Bay and its tributaries by adding 300 public access sites by 2025.
Lack of public access has long been a complaint about the Bay, where only 2 percent of the shoreline is publicly owned. Improving access historically has been viewed as an essential part of building public support for restoration efforts.
"When people have the opportunity to experience the great natural and recreational settings found along the Bay and its waterways, they intuitively recognize the value of conserving our lands and waters," said Joel Dunn, executive director of the Chesapeake Conservancy, an organization working to increase public access. "This study provides new facts about limitations to the access we currently enjoy and where we need more."
The draft plan depicts specific potential access sites that are ready for development, some that require further design and planning, and others that need further analysis.
In addition, the planning team that wrote the document recognized that further analysis is needed to improve public access in urban areas and to create camping opportunities for people making paddling trips along the region's rivers. That will be done over the coming year.
When finalized, the plan will help federal, state, local and non-profit organizations prioritize and allocate available funding for the development of access to the Bay and rivers. The draft plan can be found on the web at www.baygateways.net/publicaccess/.
Public comments on the draft Chesapeake Bay Watershed Public Access Plan may be submitted through Sept. 14. Comments may be submitted via e-mail to ChesapeakeAccess@nps.gov. This is the best option for overall comments on the plan or suggestions regarding the text.
In addition, people may use an online mapping tool to suggest new sites that may have been missed. The mapping tool is found at www.baygateways.net/AddPA/. Instructions in the tool will guide users in how to mark and describe a site.
The identification of potential access sites is not a closed or static process. New opportunities for access will continue to be identified by citizens, non-governmental organizations, and local, state and federal government. These will be incorporated in future updates to the data supporting the plan.