Laws & Policies

The National Park Service Chesapeake Bay office administers and manages, with multiple partners, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network. The legislative authority is as follows:

The Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network (Find Your Chesapeake) was originally authorized by Congress through the Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act of 1998.

Legislation to establish the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail was signed into law on December 19, 2006, as an amendment to the National Trails System Act (16 U.S.C. 1244). The National Trails System Act specified that the John Smith trail be administered in coordination with the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network.

In May 2009, Executive Order 13508 was issued for the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The executive order specified that strategies to expand public access, conserve landscapes, and increase citizen stewardship should be coordinated with the Captain John Smith Chesapeake Trail, the Star-Spangled Banner Trail, and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network.

In 2010, NPS and other federal agencies submitted the response to the executive order, the Strategy for the Protection and Restoration of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. NPS commitments in the strategy include the addition of 300 new public access sites by 2025, conserving an additional 2,000,000 acres by 2025, and expanding youth conservation corps workforces. Learn more about the report.

The National Park Service has long had an interest in the unique natural and cultural resources of the Chesapeake Bay. Congress requested that a Special Resource Study be completed for the Chesapeake Bay region. Released in 2003, the study explores whether creating a unit of the National Park System focusing on the Chesapeake would meet NPS criteria and assist on-going efforts to celebrate and conserve the nation's largest estuary.

Last updated: August 10, 2018

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