Tom Horton uses the term "national park” in the title and throughout the body of his commentary, Let’s shore up efforts to make a Chesapeake national park. The only exception is the small disclaimer that “technically it is proposed as the Chesapeake Bay National Recreation Area.” Readers could be left with the impression that there is little difference between a national park and a national recreation area (NRA). Nothing could be further from the truth. The administrative structure, land use controls, effect on existing activities, visitor traffic — all these and more can vary depending on an area’s designation.

The “national park” title inevitably attracts many who are mainly interested in adding to their checklist of national parks visited, with accompanying crowding and pressures to build increasingly elaborate infrastructure. Anyone who cares about the long-term preservation of an existing mixed-use area should prefer an NRA.

But even an NRA has its pros and cons. The Bay Journal could do a service for its readers by describing in detail how an NRA is created, maintained, and managed, and what current proposals envision for a Chesapeake NRA. Help us evaluate whether or not an NRA will increase access to the Bay more than efforts already under way, while preserving and enhancing the Bay’s ecosystem.

Horton writes that Joel Dunn of the Chesapeake Conservancy hopes for the “gold-plated tourism branding that being part of the nation’s park system provides.” Excuse me for believing that “gold-plated tourism branding” is the last thing the Chesapeake Bay needs.

Charles Bethel

East New Market

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