Recent Progress: Increase
In 2022, 11 new public access sites were added (six in Maryland, three in Pennsylvania and two in West Virginia). This brings the total to 248 public access sites that have opened on and around the Chesapeake Bay since 2010, marking an 83% achievement of the partnership’s goal to add 300 new access sites to the watershed by 2025.
Though the addition of 11 new sites in 2022 is the lowest since the assessment of this outcome began in 2011, the long-term average number of sites added has remained above the 20 per year target and progress continues to increase toward the 300-site target. Annual variation is expected based on partner ability to fund and develop sites in any given year. In addition, some states and local governments are focusing on maintenance of and upgrades to existing sites due to COVID-19, the age of public access sites’ infrastructure, climate change and budgets.
Outlook: On Course
The Public Access Outcome is on course and is expected to be met by 2025. The long-term average number of sites added each year remains above the target necessary to meet the 2025 goal. To reach the 300-site goal, just over 17 sites per year are needed for the remaining three years.
Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania have seen the biggest increases in access sites over the past ten 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. In total there are 1,379 public access sites throughout the watershed. There are currently 643 public access sites in Maryland, 405 in Virginia, 218 in Pennsylvania, 41 in West Virginia, 40 in New York, 25 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 made to add new access opportunities at existing sites, taking 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; nurture active, creative children; and help people build personal connections with places in the region. Access to waterways can boost tourism, economic development and stewardship. To find a public access site near you, visit ChesapeakeBay.net.
To achieve this outcome, Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to:
- Prioritizing public funding for public access.
- 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 detailed assessments of, and designs for, potential access sites.
- Incorporating proposed access sites into state and local outdoor recreation and open space plans.
- Preventing the loss of access on public rights-of-way.
- 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.
- Building opportunities for community 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 2022. It will be reviewed and discussed by the Management Board again in February 2024.
Logic & Action Plan
Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.
- Identifying potential public access sites that would fill gaps and mark progress toward this outcome.
- Targeting financial assistance programs to support site development and establish the need for accessibility in the development of new public access.
- Maintaining and upgrading public access sites on U.S. Department of Defense installations where site security allows.
- Working with state departments of transportation to create or enhance public access opportunities in conjunction with transportation projects that cross over or are located next to waterways.
- Enhancing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental justice screening and mapping tool.
- Using proximity analysis and other tools to determine approximate distances between population and public access sites.
- Providing technical assistance to partners in public access site development to aid in site assessment, planning, design and permitting.
- Developing new access sites that fill gaps and support boat-in primitive camping along recognized land and water trails and engaging the Youth Conservation Corps in the implementation of smaller projects.
- Involving state agencies in hydropower relicensing processes.
- Encouraging federal and state agency partners to evaluate opportunities for additional public access sites on lands under their control, especially when site or resource management plans are updated.
- Helping local governments and nongovernmental organizations exercise appropriate land use controls when acquiring public access sites.
- Reviewing road or public rights-of-way abandonment plans to ensure those with public access opportunities are not lost.
- Encouraging the incorporation of statewide comprehensive outdoor recreational plan recommendations into local and regional public access plans.
- Completed the Benefits and Barriers study.
- Refreshed workgroup membership to ensure representation of all states and federal partners.
- Updated the annual inventory of new public access sites in the Chesapeake Bay watershed with 12 sites opened in 2020. A number of state agencies provided technical assistance to local governments and nongovernmental organizations in the provision of new public access sites.
The Fostering Chesapeake Stewardship Goal Implementation Team leads the effort to achieve this outcome. It works in partnership with the Healthy Watersheds Goal Implementation Team.
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
- U.S. Department of Defense
- U.S. Forest Service