John Smith Trail Planning

Comprehensive Management Plan

The National Park Service completed the comprehensive management plan and environmental assessment (CMP/EA) for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail in February 2011, following a two-year public planning process. The comprehensive management plan is required by the National Trails System Act. The environmental assessment is required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The CMP/EA:

  • Establishes how the trail will be developed and managed over the next 20 years
  • Assesses potential impacts on natural and cultural resources
  • Identifies the trail's significant places and stories and how to protect resources critical to the trail
  • Crafts meaningful visitor experiences on land and water
  • Defines management objectives and alternatives to meet those objectives
  • Recommends a preferred alternative for managing the trail.

The National Park Service issued a draft CMP/EA on September 30, 2010, for a 30-day public comment period. This CMP document describes four different alternative concepts for protecting, developing, and managing the trail and includes analysis of the impacts and consequences of implementing each alternative. Based on reviews and public comments the actions and programs in the NPS preferred alternative now constitute the comprehensive management plan for the Smith trail.

The complete CMP/EA as amended for final approval is available for download by chapter. The document includes a summary of the history of the trail, descriptions of resources associated with the trail, four alternative management concepts, and the preferred alternative.

· Summary and Chapter 1 (6.6 MB .pdf)

· Chapter 2 Part 1 (6.8 MB .pdf)

· Chapter 2 Part 2 (8.6 MB .pdfe)

· Chapter 3 (6.5 MB .pdf)

· Chapters 4-6 (3.7 MB .pdf)

· Appendix A-K (8.3 MB .pdf)

· Appendix L (6.5 MB .pdf)

· Appendix M-S, References, Glossary, Preparers, Index (7.7 MB .pdf)

The comprehensive management plan will guide decisions about the trail for the next 20 years. The plan will be implemented through a series of 3–5 year action plans, as funding becomes available.

Interpretive Plan

The interpretive plan provides a vision for interpretive, educational, and recreational opportunities related to the trail, and defines short- and long-term goals for making meaningful connections between visitors and Chesapeake Bay resources.

A product of collaboration with Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network partners, agencies, tribes, community organizations, and others, the interpretive plan is a guiding document with reference information that trail partners can use to develop visitor experiences along the trail.

Segment Planning

The comprehensive management plan determined that the trail can best be developed and managed in smaller segments, given the trail's 3,000-mile scope and diverse resources. Segment planning will be needed to effectively understand the local resources, opportunities, and partner capacities in each segment.

Segment plans will tier off the CMP and address a five-year timeframe. Plans will require approval by NPS, which has trail-wide responsibilities for administering the Smith trail. Initial trail management segments include: (1) James River, Chickahominy River, Nansemond River, and Elizabeth River; (2) Cape Charles and Lower Eastern Shore; (3) Nanticoke River; (4) Middle Bay; (5) Patapsco River; (6) Patuxent River; (7) Potomac River; (8) Head of the Bay, Susquehanna River and Sassafras River; (9) Rappahannock River and Piankatank River; and (10) York River, Mattaponi River, and Pamunkey River.

The James River segment is the first stretch of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT to undergo segment planning. The National Park Service is working with the James River Association, Chesapeake Conservancy, and the Commonwealth of Virginia in a collaborative planning process to identify resources, specific actions, and partnerships required to develop and manage the trail in the segment between Richmond and the Rte. 17 Bridge, including the free-flowing tidal portion of the Chickahominy River.

Trail Conservation Strategy

The trail Comprehensive Management Plan called for development of a conservation strategy to guide conservation of resources which contribute to the visitor experience along the trail. Throughout 2012, the National Park Service, in collaboration with the Chesapeake Conservancy, consulted closely and regularly with the trail Advisory Council in developing a Conservation Strategy for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. The Advisory Council, whose members are appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, represents a wide range of state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, and citizens.

The Conservation Strategy sets out a long-term strategy for conserving lands important to the visitor experience of the John Smith Trail. Its purpose is several-fold:

  • Further define the trail's most important resources and their locations, based on parameters set in the trail's Comprehensive Management Plan.
  • Set out a consistent approach for assessing trail resources and their conservation needs.
  • Encourage local, state, and federal partners to protect trail resources as a core part of broader land conservation efforts.
  • Provide guidelines for implementing conservation through collaborative actions of the National Park Service and its partners.

In short, the strategy provides the means for defining priority conservation areas relative to the trail and designing appropriate conservation methods. Its focus is on saving the places that enrich visitor experiences and recreation along the trail and that contribute synergy to the many programs working to improve quality of life along the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers.

Download the Conservation Strategy for Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT (3.4 mb, pdf)

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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