Financial Assistance for Partners

National Park Service - Chesapeake helps connect people to the natural and cultural heritage of the Chesapeake region through the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and efforts to implement the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. NPS - Chesapeake is a key partner in the overall Bay watershed conservation and restoration effort involving Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C. and the Federal government.

NPS - Chesapeake provides technical and financial assistance to state and local agencies, tribes and private sector organizations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed under the Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act, the National Trails System Act and other authorities. Assistance supports implementation of:

  • The Chesapeake Bay Program, a collaborative watershed restoration partnership. The NPS is responsible for fostering interjurisdictional collaboration to add 300 new public boating, fishing and water access sites to the Bay and tributaries and conserve 2 million acres of hunting, fishing, wildlife and other conservation lands by 2025.
  • The partnership-based Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail (NHT). This 3,000 mile trail extends from Norfolk, Virginia to Cooperstown, New York and along all the Bay’s major tributaries. The John Smith Chesapeake NHT was created through the National Trails System Act (Public Law 90-543, as amended) which provides for technical and financial assistance to States or their political subdivisions, landowners, private organizations, or individuals to operate, develop, and maintain any portion of such a trail either within or outside a federally administered area.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act, which authorizes the NPS to: identify, conserve, restore, and interpret natural, recreational, historical, and cultural resources within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed; identify and utilize the collective resources sites for enhancing public education of and access to the Chesapeake Bay; link sites with trails, tour roads, scenic byways, and other connections; and develop and establish watertrails comprising water routes and connections to sites and other land resources within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

To advance these objectives, NPS – Chesapeake collaborates with partners to increase access to the Chesapeake and rivers, to conserve important landscapes and resources, to promote tourism and local economies, to engage youth in meaningful work and placed-based education, to improve recreational opportunities, and to interpret the natural and cultural resources of the Chesapeake region.


NPS - Chesapeake supported projects must occur within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

NPS - Chesapeake technical and financial assistance strategically supports projects and programs that meet DOI’s key responsibilities in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Specific plans and strategies which guide implementation include:

  • Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement and implementing management strategies and work plans, including the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Public Access Plan
  • Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT planning documents, including: Comprehensive Management Plan, Interpretive Plan, Conservation Strategy and segment plans for the James, Potomac and Lower Susquehanna rivers.

Specific priorities for fiscal year 2017 include:
  • Supporting implementation of new water access sites along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, with a priority on sites on the lower James and York Rivers, lower Potomac River and lower Susquehanna River segments.
  • Providing interpretation, media, visitor services, and educational programming focused on Chesapeake Bay natural and cultural resources at visitor contact stations and associated sites on the lower James and York Rivers, lower Potomac River and lower Susquehanna River segments as well as through the mobile Roving Ranger program.
  • Fostering public engagement in conservation, recreation, and resource stewardship through the mobile Roving Ranger offered at partner parks and sites.
  • Supporting increased visibility of the Chesapeake’s special places through expansion of Find Your Chesapeake, Paddle the Potomac and related web media.
  • Providing front-line staff and interpretive guide training and resources related to the Chesapeake Bay themes.
  • Expanding youth engagement through the Chesapeake Youth Corps program through teams in Maryland and Virginia and Kids in Kayaks program.
  • Advancing local, state, private, and federal collaborative conservation in the watershed through activities and initiatives that support Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement outcomes, including supporting the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership.
  • Identifying, documenting and planning for landscapes and sites important to American Indian tribes within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Additional programmatic priorities considered by NPS - Chesapeake in making awards include:
  • Proposed project supports canoe, kayak or other paddle-craft access.
  • Proposed project supports paddle-in camping along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT or a designated water trail.
  • Proposed project creates or enhances multiple public water access sites in serviceable geographic proximity to one another so as to address gaps in the accessibility and usability of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT or a designated water trail.
  • Proposed project is fully “shovel ready” for construction; all necessary cultural and environmental consultation, compliance and permitting requirements are complete; there is documented and solid basis for construction cost estimate.
  • Proposed project is “phase 2” construction at a project site where planning and development was previously funded by NPS.
  • Proposed project is in an urban or high density population area affording opportunity to maximize the use of the public water access site.
  • Proposed project provides opportunities for citizen or youth volunteers to be directly involved in the development and/or implementation of public water access projects to build their understanding and appreciation of Chesapeake Bay watershed resources and stewardship.
  • Proposed project builds working relationships among trail partners through cooperation in project development and/or implementation.
  • Proposed project offers a significant leveraging of Federal funds beyond the minimum 1:1 match.


Award recipients include State and local governments and non-profit organizations, whose projects have been identified and prioritized in the plans and strategies noted above. The Superintendent makes the final decision on funding based on administrative priorities. Awards are made to the highest priority projects based on the amount of funding available each year. Recipients selected for funding collaborate with NPS - Chesapeake staff to complete award requirements. All projects that have been identified and prioritized in these strategic plans, even if not prioritized for immediate funding, will remain under consideration by NPS - Chesapeake Bay for funding as future appropriations allow.

Awards typically range from $10,000 to $125,000. Federal funding must be matched by an equal (1:1) or greater amount of non-Federal support dedicated to the project. Administrative expenses shall not be more than 10 percent of all eligible project costs. Projects should be completed within a 24 month period; and all applicable project costs, both Federal and matching, must be incurred within this 24 month project period. Costs incurred either before or after the project period may not be included in the project budget.

Potential applicants must contact NPS - Chesapeake staff to discuss your project in advance of submitting an application. NPS - Chesapeake staff may be reached at 410-260-2478 for consultation.

A Cooperative Agreement will be awarded to selected recipients under the authority of 16 USC 1(g). Recipients must be willing and able to promptly produce detailed project implementation and contractual documents as directed by NPS - Chesapeake staff to successfully secure funding.
Recipients should anticipate that February through May will be the critical period for assembling award documentation and should plan accordingly; signatories for the applicant organization should be available to sign contractual documents during this time.

Last updated: January 10, 2018

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