NPS and Virginia Take Action

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Date: May 8, 2012

NPS and Virginia Take Action on John Smith Trail

Annapolis, MD - The National Park Service (NPS) and the Commonwealth of Virginia, with the help of many local partners, are launching projects in 2012 to orient visitors to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and provide interpretive and recreational opportunities. The trail was authorized by Congress in late 2006.

Projects include installing trail signage at select Virginia State Parks, construction and design of new access sites including boat and soft launches for canoe/kayak use, and planning assistance for family-oriented recreation. At many sites along the trail visitors will experience and imagine Virginia places as John Smith described them and learn about Chesapeake Indians. Virginia State Park sites along the trail include Mason Neck, Leesylvania, Caledon, Westmoreland, Belle Isle, York River, Chippokes, First Landing and Kiptopeke.

Trail projects are concentrated on the James and Rappahannock rivers and include sites on the York River and lower Eastern Shore.The John Smith Trail marks the routes used in 1607-1609 by Smith and others as they explored and mapped the Chesapeake Bay and wrote about the American Indians they met.

The trail's interpretive themes focus on 17th century American Indian societies and the natural resources of the Bay. NPS partners including local governments, non-profit organizations, American Indian tribes in Virginia, the Chesapeake Conservancy and the James River Association collaborate to develop recreational and educational opportunities for trail visitors. Local partners play an essential role in shaping trail projects that reflect local heritage and meaningful experiences for visitors.Trail superintendent John Maounis stated, "Making the trail visible and visitor ready can only be achieved with our Virginia partners. Together at places like Henricus, Powhatan Creek, Onancock, Fredericksburg, Lawrence Lewis, Jr. Park in Charles City County, and many other communities along the trail, we are building John Smith trail experiences. "

The National Park Service and the Commonwealth of Virginia recently signed a memorandum of understanding formalizing this collaborative partnership for trail development."The formal signing of this agreement significantly advances opportunities for public enjoyment of the John Smith Trail in the Commonwealth of Virginia," said Dennis Reidenbach, NPS Northeast Region Director. "21st century approaches to interpretation, education, and the protection of trail-related resources rely on a collaborative approach by multiple partners."

"Working with the National Park Service on trail development is a win-win for the citizens of the Commonwealth and our many tourists," said David Johnson, director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. "The John Smith trail offers unique opportunities to share the heritage of Virginia Indians, and show off unspoiled Chesapeake landscapes while at the same time protecting those important landscapes for future generations." Johnson is also a member of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail Advisory Council.

With the America's Great Outdoors Fifty State Report, developing the John Smith Trail was identified by the Commonwealth as a priority in enhancing recreation and access to Virginia rivers, protecting natural resources and conserving landscapes important to Virginia citizens. The report was published in 2011 after conversations between each state and the Department of the Interior on how the federal government could partner with states to advance key conservation and recreation goals of the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, launched by President Obama in 2010.

For more information about the John Smith Trail, visit

About the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, extending approximately 3,000 miles on the Bay and tributaries, is the nation's first water-based trail. It follows the routes of John Smith's exploratory voyages in 1607-1609 and offers trail visitors recreational and educational experiences on land portions as well as on the water. Primary interpretive themes center on 17th century American Indian societies and cultures and the natural resources of the Bay.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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