The Chesapeake Conservancy has received a grant for $24,000 from the Maryland State Highway Administration’s National Recreational Trails Program to improve public access to the Wye River at Wye Island Natural Resource Management Area in Queenstown, MD. Owned by the State of Maryland, the 2,800-acre island provides access to the John Smith Chesapeake Trail along Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and is an incredible place to explore by land and from the water. Wye Island provides habitat for countless species, boasts more than 12 miles of hiking trails, and has many miles of shoreline along tranquil tributaries. While there are several public soft launches in the area, none are attached to any significant land holdings or additional recreational opportunities.
Unfortunately, the public does not have water access to experience Wye Island’s rich tidal marshlands and creeks. There is an existing dock, but it is owned by the Department of Natural Resources and closed to the public. Therefore, the Chesapeake Conservancy pursued the SHA grant to make this special site available to the general public. The project will include building a gravel road and small parking lot, as well as launch improvements and interpretive signage for public paddle use along Granary Creek.
Lack of public water access to Wye Island is an example of a larger issue facing the Chesapeake. The watershed has nearly 12,000 miles of shoreline, but only two percent of it is publicly accessible. The Conservancy firmly believes that only by experiencing and connecting with the Chesapeake, can people appreciate its abundant resources and provide environmental stewardship into the future. Creating a canoe/kayak launch at Wye Island will allow the public to get out on the water, view scenic landscapes, watch wildlife, and paddle some of the most beautiful rivers on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The site is within a 1.5-hour drive from the metro DC-Annapolis-Baltimore corridor, making it an ideal location for urban day-trippers, as well as those on longer excursions. It is the hope of the Conservancy that these experiences will ignite a passion for the Chesapeake among residents and visitors, leading them to visit more sites and care for their favorite places.
Paddlers are a growing market on Eastern Shore waterways, so encouraging this use at Wye Island will encourage tourism to the area and visitation of the important natural and cultural resources along the John Smith Chesapeake Trail. The Trail is also connected through the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network to many natural, cultural and historical sites throughout the watershed, which are promoted and supported by the Chesapeake Conservancy. Finally, there is a great opportunity for visitor education centered on the John Smith Chesapeake Trail, the Eastern Shore’s unique history and natural resources, and the Chesapeake’s many ecosystems.