WASHINGTON – The National Park Service is eyeing parts of theChesapeake Bay for possible incorporation into its system of historicsites, parks, preserves and national seashores.
Park service officials admit they are not sure if any area within the watershed will be added to the system or what type of park they mayrecommend at the end of a yearlong study that begins Monday, with aseries of public hearings.
One of the goals of the hearings is to get the public to help narrowthe scope of the project. Unlike most special resource studies, whichlook at a particular area for inclusion in the national park system,there is no specific area within the bay watershed currently beingconsidered.
“The study isn’t including the whole Chesapeake Bay because, frankly,that wouldn’t be feasible,” said Jonathan Doherty, the Chesapeake BaySpecial Resource Study director. The service expects to complete the$235,000 study by the middle of next year.
Lee Epstein, the director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s landprogram said, the foundation welcomes the study as long as the finalconcept is “protective of private property . . . and allay people’sfears.”
Congress called for the Chesapeake Bay Special Resource Study in 1998,as part of the Chesapeake Bay Initiative, which was sponsored by Sen.Paul Sarbanes, D-Md. A spokesman said Sarbanes was hoping to help createa Chesapeake Bay National Park.
The park service has designed six models that will be presented for comment at this month’s public workshops.
Concepts range from establishing an aquatic preserve to developing historical facilities and displays within an existing bay community. Other proposals envision a preserve that includes several of the bay’secosystems, visitors centers at sites around the bay or special use ofthe bay’s islands.
Park system rules require that the ultimate project must berepresentative of the bay’s resources and culture. It will also have tomeet park service criteria of suitability and feasibility, Doherty said.
The concept would be suitable if no other organization has controlover the preservation of an area and the service has nothing like itwithin its system. Feasibility will include cost, whether the project ismanageable and if it has public support.
The workshops begin Monday in Newport News, Va., with a second one scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Guerrieri Center at SalisburyUniversity.
Two more meetings are scheduled next week, both beginning at 6:30 p.m.The first will be Sept. 24 the Cecil Community College Conference Centerrin Northeast and the second will be Sept. 26 at the Maryland Hall for the Performing Arts in Annapolis.
Doherty said he hopes to have first draft ready for another set ofpublic workshops by January.
The completed study will be submitted to Congress for review, whichwould decide whether to proceed or not.