A new plan calls for increasing public access to the Chesapeake Bay by adding more than 300 new spots along the shore where people can fish, swim, put a boat in the water or just enjoy the view.When we moved to Maryland from the West Coast (by way of a short stop in Florida), one of the things that struck us as very different was the paucity of public access to the bay. On the West Coast, the vast majority of the coastline has public access; even where the land adjacent to the coast is privately owned, and the most of the land in the west is publicly owned, there is access to the beach. In Maryland (and much the same in Virginia), land is largely in the private domain, and people are relatively stingy with granting access through their property to the water. It was one of the reasons we specifically sought out a community with beach access when we moved here, a decision I've never regretted.
The draft "watershed public access plan" released late last week by the National Park Service lays out a blueprint for boosting by more than 25 percent the number of sites where the public can get to the bay and its tributaries. That was one of the goals in a 2010 bay restoration strategy developed by the Obama administration.
There are 1,144 spots throughout the bay watershed now where the public can launch boats, fish, swim or view the water, according to the plan. Of those, just 770 are on the bay proper or in tidal reaches of rivers. With 11,684 miles of bay and tidal river shoreline, they're about 15 miles apart on average - and much more distant in some places. Less than half can be used to launch or land boats, canoes or kayaks, the plan notes...
What do you think? Can the bay stand more public use? Or will people care more for the bay - and take better care of it - if they get to know it better?
The park service is taking comment on the plan through Aug. 24. To learn more, go here. Comment by email to ChesapeakeAccess@nps.gov
Looking at the plan, and what public access sites they might add nearby, I see a few sites, most of which already have some level of access:
- Cove Point Lighthouse: Boating fishing, swimming and viewing access is recommended. Access is already available unofficially by the Calvert Marine Museum.
- Thomas G. Thompson Bridge: Proposed "Paddlers Launch" at existing boat ramp.
- Patuxent River Naval Recreation Center: Proposed Boating Access (the military, and civilians who work for the military already have boating access there).
- Jefferson Patterson Park: Boardwalks planned for better access to water for viewing; no plans for extending fishing, swimming or boating access.
- Sotterly Plantation: Paddler's access and/or boaters dock or tie down is suggested.
- Benedict, Maryland: Benedict Waterfront Village Revitalization Plan. Parking, interpretation, fishing access, viewing and boat launch.
If the other 300 sites are like this, color me unimpressed...