Chesapeake Gateways Grants

A hand boat launch and small staircase enter the water with a sign directing visitors.

Peter Turcik

The National Park Service Chesapeake Gateways Program (NPS Chesapeake Gateways) offers competitive grant opportunities to advance the Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act of 1998 within the full 41-million-acre Chesapeake Bay watershed! The information below is intended to help potential grantees prepare and submit their proposal for grant funding through this effort.

2023-24 Grant Application Period Has Closed

Details Regarding Network Grants

NPS Chesapeake Gateways is advancing a bold new strategy to strengthen Chesapeake Gateways; gather and share the full diversity of Chesapeake stories; expand land conservation; provide equitable access to recreation, history, and nature; support local and working economies at a community level; and engage an inclusive and deep Chesapeake stewardship and resiliency movement benefitting all. 

Specifically, NPS Chesapeake Gateways welcomes grant proposals purposely focused on advancing equity, inclusion, accessibility, and community engagement across two strategic themes: Advance a Major Inclusive Interpretive Initiative with an Equity Lens and Promote Resilient Communities & Landscapes Through Tourism, Sustainability, Conservation & Local Economies. 

This grant opportunity includes a broad list of eligible entities, no match requirement, two levels of funding (small and large grants), and grant training workshops to ensure equitable access to apply for the funds and to distribute the funds across varying project types, locations, sizes, and scopes.

NPS Chesapeake Gateways is seeking grant proposals that address at least one of the two targeted strategic themes listed below. Samples of associated actions and initiatives are provided as impact examples.

Advance a Major Inclusive Interpretive Initiative with an Equity Lens

Chesapeake Gateways bring out more complete narratives of our storied landscape. The Chesapeake Watershed is rich with heritage, from the natural resources to the diverse peoples who have lived here through time— from pre-colonial history to today. Some stories are familiar, some untold or under-appreciated, and some are yet to be uncovered. Together, we will:

  1. ENGAGE underrepresented places

  2. HELP tell underrepresented and full stories

  3. FACILITATE galvanizing conservation and quality-of-life messaging

  4. STRENGTHEN the ladder of engagement

Sample Actions and Initiatives:

  • Develop meaningful relationships and engagement with underrepresented places and communities to listen, learn, and understand how Chesapeake Gateways can support community interests and needs, and help tell important stories.

  • Research and document sites, landscapes, cultures, and stories important to Black, Latino, Native American, Asian-American, and other underrepresented communities across the Chesapeake watershed.

  • Facilitate and support Chesapeake Gateways to assess and more fully understand their diverse communities and audiences and their needs and interests.

  • Identify, recruit, and develop Chesapeake Gateways sites and partners that can present underrepresented stories.

  • Develop inclusive interpretation, programming, and experiences for underrepresented communities that includes key interpretive themes of Chesapeake Gateways.

  • Link culture and nature through interpretation, education, messaging, and initiatives. Clearly combine cultural traditions and history with contemporary resource challenges, ecological sustainability, and resilience initiatives to convey a stewardship ethic.

Promote Resilient Communities & Landscapes Through Tourism, Sustainability, Conservation & Local Economies

Chesapeake Gateways recognize the Watershed’s heritage is a living history played out over a large landscape. Sustaining livelihoods while conserving resources is a core component of our work. Farming, fishing, heritage tourism, and access to nature are all things that make the Chesapeake special, and we must support them. Together, we will:

  1. PROMOTE and MARKET the Chesapeake Watershed experience

  2. PROMOTE a stewardship ethic

  3. FACILITATE collaboration for landscape and community conservation

  4. ADVANCE equitable access to the outdoors

  5. GROW landscape, heritage-based, sustainable economies

Sample Actions and Initiatives

  • Make public lands and open spaces more welcoming and accessible to diverse communities. Share and advance standards for equitable access to parks, green space, water, etc. Expand access to green spaces in communities where they are needed.

  • Develop and encourage new and enhanced opportunities to connect with underrepresented communities through inclusive and welcoming events, festivals, places, and programming.

  • Deploy inclusive volunteer programs and campaigns to engage new audiences in Chesapeake stewardship.

  • Advance watershed-wide land conservation and public access collaboration through projects and programs that support the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership.
  • Link Chesapeake Gateways and nature-based and cultural tourism of Gateways with economic initiatives for local resilience and community sustainability, especially tied with sectors closely linked with Chesapeake heritage, such as crafts, working lands and maritime activities.

Estimated Total Funding: Approximately $1,000,000. The amount of funding available per award will be determined once final fiscal year (FY) 2024 appropriations have been made.

Expected Award Amount: An estimated range of $25,000 to $150,000 of funding is anticipated for each award. The amount of funding available per award will be determined as part of the application review process based on applications received and funding made available through appropriations.

Anticipated Award Date: Summer of 2024

Anticipated Term of the Agreement: Agreement terms for periods of performance for funded projects may range between one to two years, depending on the complexity and negotiated project statement of work. Agreements are not effective until fully executed with signature from the NPS Financial Assistance Awarding Officer.

Estimated Number of Grants to be Awarded:

Small Grants ($25K-$50K): approximately 5-6 grants expected

Large Grants ($51K-$150K): approximately 3-4 grants expected

Proposals may include more than one action or activity, but the maximum award for any proposal is $150,000.

Applicants from outside the Chesapeake watershed may apply, but only projects and programs conducted within the watershed will be considered.

00 – State governments
01 – County governments
02 – City or township governments
04 – Special district governments
05 – Independent school districts
06 – Public and State controlled institutions of higher education
07 – Native American tribal governments (Federally recognized)
08 – Public housing authorities/Indian housing authorities
11 – Native American tribal organizations (other than Federally recognized tribal governments)
12 – Nonprofits having a 501 (c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
13 – Nonprofits that do not have a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, other than institutions of higher education
20 – Private institutions of higher education
22 – For profit organization other than small businesses
23 – Small businesses

PLEASE NOTE: While applicants can be from outside the Chesapeake watershed, only projects that take place in the watershed will be considered. Projects that take place outside the watershed will not be considered.

The NPS Chesapeake Gateways Office seeks to make this effort as accessible as possible to all eligible applicants. There are no cost share or match requirements for these grants as authorized under Section 502(a) of The Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act of 1998.

You must complete the mandatory standard forms and any applicable optional forms, in accordance with the instructions provided, as required by the Notice on Do not include any proprietary or personally identifiable information. 

Mandatory Requirements:

  • Standard Form 424 (SF 424) 

  • Standard Form 424A or C (SF 424A/C) 

  • Project Abstract Summary 

  • Detailed Budget 

  • Indirect Costs

  • Standard Form 424B or D (SF 424B/D) 
  • Project Narrative (see drop down below for specifics)

The project narrative is an opportunity to describe and provide details on the proposal that specifically address at least one of the strategic themes (see above) and each of the review criteria (see below). The proposal text must be no longer than 8 pages, no smaller than font size 11, and have 1-inch margins. The 8-page limit includes all text, figures, and references. (Project team resumes, Forms SF-424, SF-424A, SF-424B, SF-LLL, and the statement of indirect charges are not counted as part of the 8-page limit). Only information that is pertinent to the proposal should be included in the narrative. Extra information will not be considered.

Project Overview

  1. Purpose, Goal(s), and Objective(s) 

  2. Deliverable(s) - specific product(s) or project outcome(s) 

  3. Project Location within the watershed (Please note: projects outside the watershed will not be considered.) 

  4. Key Tasks and Milestones 

Strategic Intent

  1. Connection to Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act - Does the project identify, conserve, restore, and/or interpret natural, recreational, historical, and/or cultural resources within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to enhance public education of and access to the Chesapeake Bay?

  2. Connection to Chesapeake Gateways Strategic Themes - How will this project advance one the strategic themes (listed above). All projects must support at least one strategic theme.

  3. Connection to Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility and Engagement Objectives - How does the project address community engagement, equity, inclusion, and/or accessibility? Does the project build long-term relationships with underrepresented communities to address community identified needs?

  4. Innovation in Project Intent - How innovative is the proposed approach to understanding the chosen theme(s) and intended impact? Innovative research, planning, programming, and projects in equitable public access, conservation, community engagement, education, and recreation are core to the work to advance Chesapeake Gateways.

Organization/Applicant Overview

  1. Organization mission alignment - How does the project fit into the proposing organization’s mission and does the organization have the capacity to fulfill the project?

  2. Project Team’s skills and experience, including staff, volunteers, partners and consultants. Name, title, and responsibilities. Optional resumes may be submitted. Resumes do not count toward the 8-page limit.

  3. Proposed Partners - Does the project include existing or new partnerships?  Optional letters of support may be submitted. Letters of support do not count toward the 8-page limit.

Optional Narrative Components (Do not count towards 8-page limit.):

  1. Project Resumes - Proposals may include resumes of key project contacts (no more than 3 pages per resume). Resumes must be submitted with the application to be considered.
  2. Letters of Support - Letters of support from key partners or constituents can be included (no more than 2 pages per letter). Letters should be current, signed by an authorized representative, and correspond to the project or applicant. Letters must be submitted with the application to be considered.

The final deadline is 11:59 ET, Friday, November 3, 2023. Applicants are held responsible for their proposals being submitted to the National Park Service before the deadline closes.

Don't delay. Start your application now.

Applicant Toolkit

Review Criteria

All proposals will be screened by NPS staff for relevance, accuracy, completeness, and compliance with the instructions included in the Notice of Funding Opportunity. Proposals will then be evaluated by a review committee representing technical experts with backgrounds in one or more of the strategic themes. Through these grants, NPS Chesapeake Gateways seeks to advance innovation in equity, inclusion, accessibility and engagement by Chesapeake Gateway partners and communities.

CHESAPEAKE GATEWAYS financial support is made under authority by the Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act of 1998. The language of the Act specifically states that projects must: (A) identify, conserve, restore, and interpret natural, recreational, historical, and cultural resources within the Chesapeake Bay watershed; and (B) identify and utilize the collective resources as Chesapeake Bay Gateways sites for enhancing public education of and access to the Chesapeake Bay.

The reviewers will evaluate how successfully projects connect to the Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act.

Chesapeake Gateways is about treasured resources and important stories, and about the people of the Chesapeake watershed, in all their splendid diversity. The Chesapeake Gateways Strategic Plan is structured into four strategic themes, representing a collective aspiration for near- and long-term impact across the watershed.

The reviewers will evaluate how successfully projects connect to one or more of the two target strategic themes.

Chesapeake Gateways is a network of people, places, programs, and stories providing opportunities to enjoy, learn about, and help conserve the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Included in the network are assorted natural, cultural, historical, and recreational sites, trails, museums, parks, refuges, and interpretive and orientation facilities. The NPS Chesapeake Gateways strategic plan stems from a recognition that the benefits of the watershed have not been equally shared by all people or all communities.

The reviewers will evaluate how well the proposal addresses equity, inclusion, accessibility, and engagement objectives. Does the project build long-term relationships with underrepresented communities to address community identified needs? How is the intended audience engaged in the project?

The vision for Chesapeake Gateways is a network that welcomes people to the Chesapeake watershed’s outstanding benefits and provides inclusive experiences that inspire a robust stewardship ethic. Innovative research, planning, programming, and projects in equitable public access, conservation, community engagement, education, and recreation are critical parts of the work to restore and protect the nation’s largest and most productive estuary. Innovations will be essential to expand storytelling to be inclusive of untold stories or under told stories. Innovation in community engagement will be essential to include all communities in project planning and implementation.

The reviewers will evaluate how innovative the proposed project is at addressing the chosen theme(s) and intended impact.

Projects need to have well defined objectives, activities, costs, deliverables, and expected outcomes. A well-crafted budget and project narrative of your scope of work must clearly convey to reviewers your intent and your plan for accomplishing your objectives. Uncertainty about your fiscal and operational approach will undermine your proposal.

The reviewers will evaluate how effectively the budget and project narrative convey the intent of the project.

Chesapeake Gateways depends on a network of people and partners to conserve and steward the special places in the watershed important to communities, visitors, and the nation, for this and future generations. Success of each project will depend on the capacity of each proposing organization and the team of volunteers, staff, partners and/or consultants assembled to plan and implement the project.

The reviewers will evaluate whether each proposing organization has envisioned and assembled a team with the necessary skills to accomplish the project. Does the project team have the relevant subject matter expertise and experience? How well does the applicant demonstrate the ability to meet administrative and technical grant requirements?


Merit review recommendations will be forwarded to the NPS Chesapeake Gateways Superintendent for review and consideration. The NPS Superintendent may also consider geographic distribution within the Chesapeake watershed, diversity of awardees, thematic distribution, and the amount of funds available to make final recommendations of the applications to be forwarded for funding. The final recommendations will be forwarded to the NPS Financial Assistance Selection Official for final selection.

Last updated: November 9, 2023