Laws & Policies

The sun breaks the horizon at dawn over open water and a marsh.

Peter Turcik

As a partnership network convener and community assistance program, the National Park Service Chesapeake Gateways (NPS Chesapeake Gateways) administers, manages, and participates in multiple Chesapeake partnerships and collaboratives. Our legislative authority is as follows:

NPS Chesapeake Gateways manages the congressionally created Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network (Chesapeake Gateways). Chesapeake Gateways is a community assistance and partnership network across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Chesapeake Gateways was originally authorized by Congress through the Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act of 1998.

Learn how to visit Chesapeake Gateways.

Congress requested that a Special Resource Study be completed for the Chesapeake Bay region. Released in 2004, the study explores whether creating a unit of the National Park System focusing on the Chesapeake would meet the National Park Service’s significance suitability and feasibility criteria and assist on-going efforts to celebrate and conserve the nation's largest estuary. The study informs recognizes the significance of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, but no action toward creating a unit of the National Park System has been taken by Congress.

Legislation to establish the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail (Chesapeake NHT) 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 Chesapeake NHT be administered in coordination with the Chesapeake Gateways. Management of the trail has since been reassigned to Colonial National Historical Park, however NPS Chesapeake Gateways continues to closely coordinate with the trail as a Chesapeake Gateways Network Trail.

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 stewardship should be coordinated with the Chesapeake NHT, the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, and Chesapeake Gateways.

In 2010, the National Park Service and other federal agencies submitted the response to the executive order, the Strategy for the Protection and Restoration of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The National Park Service 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.

Chesapeake Watershed Agreement

The Chesapeake Bay Program has led and directed the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay since 1983. Partners in the Bay Program – several federal and state agencies, local governments, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions – are working together under the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement to protect and restore the Bay and its vast watershed. Of the Agreement’s 10 goals addressing specific concerns for clean water, abundant life, and healthy people, NPS Chesapeake Gateways coordinates the National Park Service’s responsibilities toward Land Conservation, Stewardship/Diversity, Public Access, and Environmental Literacy. NPS Chesapeake Gateways also contributes to actions toward climate resiliency and water quality.

Last updated: July 11, 2023