Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Salazar Designates Chester River as Component of John Smith Trail

New Designation Gives Chester River National Historic Trail Status
Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, has formally designated the Chester River as a connecting component of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Secretary Salazar's designation was made in response to a 2011 request by Sultana Projects, Inc. and the Chesapeake Conservancy, and supported by research conducted by the Center for Environment & Society at Washington College. The Chester River was one of four rivers (or river portions) in five states that the Secretary, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, and Director of the National Park Service Jonathan B. Jarvis, announced as new connecting components of the John Smith Trail in an event in Annapolis on May 16.
"These river trails, totaling 841 miles in length, are closely associated with Captain John Smith's exploration of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries from 1607 to 1609 and especially with the American Indian towns and cultures of the 17th century Chesapeake that he encountered," said Secretary Salazar. "In addition to recognizing historical points of interest, incorporation of these river segments into the National Historic Trail will provide important recreation and tourism opportunities and increased public access. The new connectors will enrich exploration of the water routes in the entire Chesapeake watershed."
"Today, thanks to the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Salazar, we are blazing a new trail for America's Great Outdoors," said Governor O'Malley. "By linking our extraordinary landscapes and waterways to our country's history, the Captain John Smith National Historic trail will support jobs and local economies across the region while providing unique opportunities for visitors to explore our cultural heritage while enjoying our natural resources."
Because John Smith did not extensively explore the Chester River in 1608, the river had not previously been included as part of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and thus was ineligible to receive the benefits and protection afforded National Historic Trails. With the announcement of Secretary Salazar's designation, the National Park Service is now authorized to work with state and local agencies and partner organizations like Sultana Projects, to provide technical and financial assistance to protect and enhance access to the River.
"The Chester's new designation is an important accomplishment that will bring more resources to bear in the ongoing effort to protect the river," said Sultana Projects' President Drew McMullen. "In the short run this could mean something as simple as creating a new public landing on the Chester, and in the long run something as important as helping establish a major new park or wildlife preserve." Sultana Projects has been designated by the National Park Service as the manager for the new Chester River Water Trail.
"The Chester River connecting trail extends the framework of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail to the headwaters of the Chester and will provide great opportunities to create more public access and to conserve the river's history, special places, and ecologically valuable lands," said Joel Dunn, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Conservancy, the National Park Service's principal partner for developing the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
The legislation that established the original Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, which traces Smith's 1608-1609 voyages of exploration up the Bay, allowed the network to be expanded via connector trails on other important rivers. The National Park Service identified three major criteria that would have to be met before a river could be considered eligible as a connector: 1) association with John Smith’s voyages; 2) association with 17th-century Indians; and 3) association with the natural history of the 17th-century Chesapeake. Washington College's Center for Environment & Society was uniquely positioned to assess the Chester. Archaeologists, historians, and environmental scientists at the Center have conducted many years of research on the river, and in 2009 CES was contracted to prepare a feasibility study assessing the Chester's significance and eligibility. This report (PDF) formed the basis for the designation announced this week. "We are very pleased that we were able to help pave the way for this important designation," said John L. Seidel, Director of the Center. "This brings national recognition to what those of us who live here know so well: the natural beauty of the Chester River, as well as its critical importance to native peoples, who had a long history here, and to the early history of our country. The Trail also will help stimulate heritage and ecotourism, which are increasingly important to the financial health of our region. It is a wonderful achievement for the Chester."

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