WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators representing Maryland, Virginia and Delaware are calling on appropriators to fully fund the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Program, which supports public education about and access to the Chesapeake Bay. Led by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the letter is signed by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Chris Coons (both D-Del.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
The senators shared with Senators Lisa Murkowski and Tom Udall, chair and ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, how Gateways sites draw more than “10 million people annually, and the competitive grants program is oversubscribed every year.” They urged robust funding, saying “it is critical that the federal government continue to be a reliable partner in providing access to the nation’s largest estuary.”
“The Chesapeake Bay is the economic, historical and cultural heart of our region,” said Senator Cardin. “The federal government, through the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, is instrumental to making the entire Bay experience accessible, attractive and enjoyable for Marylanders and all Americans.”
“Not only is the Chesapeake Bay an economic engine and an environmental resource that millions across our region depend on, it is a national treasure that all Americans should be able to enjoy,” said Senator Carper. “Funding for the Gateways and Watertrails program helps to ensure that residents and visitors alike can appreciate all the Bay has to offer for years to come.”
“The Gateways and Watertrails Program helps locals and visitors alike experience the rich cultural footprint of the Chesapeake Bay,” Senator Warner said. “These resources not only support education about the Bay’s history and ecology, but also help power the revenue-generating regional engine that is the Chesapeake Bay.”
“We are blessed in Delaware to be a part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and to have access to wonderful recreational opportunities on the Nanticoke River,” said Senator Coons. “The Chesapeake Bay Gateways Program is critical for linking parks, trails, museums, and more to ensure that both residents and visitors to our region can experience all of the great historic, cultural, and recreational opportunities the Chesapeake has to offer.”
“This initiative has helped support the Captain John Smith Trail, which will soon be a major Virginia landmark thanks to the newly uncovered Werowocomoco site, the historical headquarters of Chief Powhatan and reputed spot where John Smith encountered Powhatan’s daughter Pocahontas,” Senator Kaine said. “Preserving places like this is not only intrinsically valuable but a worthwhile investment in the Chesapeake Bay tourism economy.”
“To experience the Chesapeake Bay is to understand the importance of preserving this natural treasure,” said Senator Van Hollen, member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “For recreation and for Maryland jobs, a clean and thriving Bay is essential. We must maintain access to the Bay and its tributaries to keep the Bay healthy, and we must support the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Trails program so families can continue to make memories on its waters and shores for generations to come.”
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, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.