Chesapeake Gateways

Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Program – Funding for Public Access on the John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

The National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails program is the most important federal program supporting public access in the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Conservancy is fighting to protect funding so there are more places to access and learn about this national treasure in our own backyard.

The Chesapeake Bay has a public access deficit.

  • There are 11,684 miles of shoreline in the Chesapeake Bay; however, 98% of the Chesapeake’s shoreline is privately owned.
  • 18 million people reside in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and 10 million people live along or near the shoreline.
  • Because so much of the land is privately held, there are limited opportunities for people to get out on the water and experience the natural beauty of Chesapeake Bay.


The Gateways program is essential to expanding public access sites in the Chesapeake Bay.

The program was established by Congress in 1998 to help the National Park Service and its partners connect people to the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. NPS uses Gateways funding to provide technical and financial assistance to communities along the John Smith Chesapeake Trail that helps them access the trail. They accomplish this through physical infrastructure (such as kayak and boat launches, fishing piers) and interpretive infrastructure (such as signage).

Through more than $3.2 million in grants, Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails supported 50 projects focused on public access and trail development from 2012-2016.

The program also supports youth programs to create the next generation of Chesapeake Bay stewards. Previous programs include:

  • NPS provides technical and financial assistance in VA and MD to engage high school age youth in summer conservation corps.
  • NPS partners with the Chesapeake Bay Trust to support year-long Chesapeake Conservation Corps internships with key organizations.
  • NPS partners to carry out “Kids in Kayaks” for engaging urban youth in outdoor experiences.


Outdoor Recreation is a booming industry.

Table listing annual consumer spending, wages and salaries, state and local tax revenue, and direct jobs generated by the outdoor industry in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware.



State Consumer Spending Wages and Salaries State/Local Tax Revenue Direct Jobs
Pennsylvania $21.5 billion $7.2 billion $1.6 billion 219,000
Virginia $13.6 billion $3.9 billion $923 million 138,000
Maryland $9.5 billion $2.8 billion $686 million 85,000
Delaware $4 billion $1.1 billion $304 million 39,000

(Source: Outdoor Industry Association)