This new fishing pier and kayak launch allow locals at Sleepy Hole Park in Suffolk, Va., to access the Nansemond River. (Image by Will Parson)

In 2016, Chesapeake Bay Program partners opened a total of 24 boat ramps, fishing piers and other sites that grant public access to creeks, streams and rivers in the region. With fourteen sites opened in Virginia, four each in Pennsylvania and Maryland and two in West Virginia, there are now 1,271 places in the Chesapeake Bay region that are open to fishing, boating, swimming and other recreational activities.

Since 2010, Bay Program partners have opened 132 sites, meeting 44 percent of our goal to open 300 sites by 2025. Strong partnerships and public initiatives at all levels of government and with nongovernmental organizations have been critical to our progress, as illustrated by the varied ownership of the sites opened last year: 13 of the new sites are owned by local governments, 10 are owned by state governments and one is jointly owned by state and local government. Funding for these public access sites is also varied, coming from local and state governments, nonprofit organizations and federal funding.

As development continues across the Chesapeake Bay region, demand for places that allow the public to reach the water remains high. Public access to open space and waterways can improve health and quality of life, provide economic value through recreation and tourism and create citizen stewards who care for their local waterways.

Increasing public access to open space and waterways not only allows for recreation, it also creates a shared sense of responsibility to protect these important natural environments. Through the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, our partners committed to increasing public access as part of a larger effort to engage communities in conservation work.

“Having access to waterways and woodlands throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed and understanding the importance of this natural resource is essential to its protection and continued enjoyment,” said Chesapeake Bay Program Director Nick DiPasquale in a media release. “We don’t value what we don’t know, and we won’t protect what we don’t value. There is much about the natural world that we don’t understand, yet it is vital to our well-being and survival.”

Get a closer look at four of the new sites, or learn more about our work to connect residents to their local waterways.

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