Between 2010 and 2019, 194 boat ramps, fishing piers and other public access sites were opened on and around the Chesapeake Bay. This marks a 65% achievement of the goal to add 300 new access sites to the watershed by 2025 and brings the total number of access sites in the region to 1,333.
In 2019, 18 new public access sites were added (ten in Virginia, seven in Maryland, and one in Delaware). Although this is a decrease from last year’s total of 23 new public access sites, annual variation is expected based on partner ability to fund and develop sites in any given year. For example, in 2019 partners reported less available funding for new sites and the need to use available funds to maintain existing sites. In order to meet the 300-site goal, an average of 20 new public access sites per year are needed. Between 2011 and 2019, partners have opened an average of approximately 22 sites per year. The 18 sites in 2019 is the first time in five years that less than 20 new public access sites opened. Thus, the long-term data trend, to date, has been positive and in excess of the 20 sites needed per year.
Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania have seen the biggest increases in access sites over the past nine years. This is not surprising, as the bulk of the Chesapeake Bay watershed—as well as existing access sites and opportunities for new access sites—lies within these states. There are currently 629 public access sites in Maryland, 374 in Virginia, 213 in Pennsylvania, 46 in West Virginia, 39 in New York, 24 in the District of Columbia, and eight in Delaware.
In addition to meeting the goal of 300 sites by 2025, our partners will focus on improving the quality of new public access sites. Where feasible, they are ensuring that there are ample parking spaces, amenities and multilingual signs to meet the needs of diverse communities. Efforts will also be aimed at adding new access opportunities at existing sites to take advantage of existing infrastructure.
Public access to open space and waterways can improve public health and quality of life. People rely on outdoor places to exercise, relax and recharge their spirits. Time spent outdoors can strengthen family bonds and nurture active, creative children. And access to the water can build personal connections with places that have shaped life in the region, boosting tourism economies and creating citizen stewards who care for local resources and engage in conservation efforts. To find a public access site near you, visit www.chesapeakebay.net/action/visit.
To achieve this outcome, Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to:
- Tracking progress toward this outcome;
- Making public funding for public access a priority;
- Working with private sector funders to develop access sites;
- Assessing urban access issues and needs;
- Addressing accessibility issues and needs;
- Enhancing public access for a diverse population and ensuring all watershed residents have reasonable access to the water;
- Conducting more detailed assessments of and designs for potential access sites;
- Incorporating proposed access sites into state and local outdoor recreation and open space plans;
- Establishing a process that will ensure public access is considered in the planning of all appropriate transportation projects (e.g., road work across or adjacent to streams or rivers);
- Preventing the loss of access on public rights-of-way;
- Exploring options for resolving railroad crossing liability;
- Engaging in hydropower relicensing processes to expand public access;
- Exploring the potential for additional access on public lands;
- Managing land control for water access using various land acquisition techniques;
- Filling gaps in public access along recognized water trails and developing access sites to support boat-in primitive camping along these trails;
- Determining how site planning and development can be adapted to address the impacts of climate change; and
- Building opportunities for the citizen stewardship and maintenance of access sites.
Monitoring and assessing progress toward the outcome will occur through the annual tracking of new public access sites, which can include the development of a new boating, swimming, fishing, or water or wildlife viewing access facility on a new site or the development of a new type of access facility on an existing site.
As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s partnership-wide implementation of adaptive management, progress toward this outcome was reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in February of 2020.
Logic & Action Plan
Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.
Completed actions from this outcome's Logic & Action Plan include:
- In 2019, the Public Access Action Team updated its annual inventory of new public access sites in the Chesapeake Bay watershed with 18 sites opened in 2019. A number of state agencies provided technical assistance to local governments and nongovernmental organizations in the provision of new public access sites.
- In 2016 and 2017, Youth Conservation Corps members enhanced water access by developing boat-in primitive campsites, clearing viewsheds and building water-view trails.
- In 2016 and 2017, all National Park Service Chesapeake Bay financial assistance awards for public access included appropriate accessibility requirements. The office funded six public access projects during this time. In 2018, more than 350 students participated in the Wilderness Inquiry Canoemobile program in a voyager canoe on the Susquehanna River. For some students, this marked their first paddling experience on a river. Almost all of the students came from Title I schools, or schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families.
- By the end of 2017, all watershed states had established processes to allow their transportation departments to explore public access site provisions for those projects that are over or adjacent to water bodies with potential recreational access.
- In 2018, more than 350 students participated in the Wilderness Inquiry Canoemobile program in a voyager canoe on the Susquehanna River. For some students, this marked their first paddling experience on a river. Almost all of the students came from Title I schools, or schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families.
Participating partners include:
- State of Delaware
- State of Maryland
- State of New York
- Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
- Commonwealth of Virginia
- State of West Virginia
- District of Columbia
- Chesapeake Bay Commission
- National Park Service
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service