First-Ever “OkoumeFest Ultra Marathon” Boat Race on the Captain John Smith Trail

Date:   May 17, 2013
Contact:   Ed Stierli, Steve & Roberta Denning Landscape Conservation Fellow, National Parks Conservation Association, C: 202.697.0788
Alison Zemanski Heis, Media Relations Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, C: 202.384.8762
John Harris, President & CEO, Chesapeake Light Craft, C: 443.822.6287

First-Ever “OkoumeFest Ultra Marathon” Boat Race on the Captain John Smith Trail

Hundreds of boaters gather to raise awareness for better public access and to celebrate the Chesapeake’s treasured waterways and landscapes

Stevensville, MD – The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Chesapeake Light Craft, and WaterTribe will host on Sunday, May 19, a 64-mile expedition-style race along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail in the Chesapeake Bay.  The adventure race welcomes paddlers and sailors in small boats and begins and ends at Matapeake State Park, following a scenic, clockwise route around Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge. The upcoming OkoumeFest Ultra Marathon supports NPCA’s work with the Freedom to Float (#FreedomToFloat) campaign, which promotes improved public access for recreation and making connections among local communities to treasured waterways and natural landscapes in the Chesapeake watershed. 

“Each year, Chesapeake national parks welcome more than 54 million visitors who spend more than $1.5 billion in the nearby communities,” said Ed Stierli, Landscape Conservation Fellow for NPCA. “We have so many treasured places that help tell our shared American story; unfortunately, very few provide access to the water.  “Connecting communities with nature and expanding access will help protect our Chesapeake lands and waters, which are economic drivers for the region, and will promote opportunities for healthy outdoor recreation including boating, fishing, hiking, camping, and birding.”

Surprisingly, less than two percent of the Chesapeake’s nearly 12,000 miles of shoreline is accessible to the public.  The Chesapeake Bay watershed is home to iconic historical and natural treasures watershed, more than 55 national parks, and thousands of species of plants and wildlife however, significant stretches of the shore have little or no access.  Recognizing the need for better public access along the Bay’s shorelines, President Obama issued an Executive Order calling for the creation of 300 new public access sites in the Chesapeake by 2025. In response, the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Access Plan provides a blueprint for best places to invest and create public access points along all of the waterways in the Chesapeake.

“We jumped at a chance to hold a race on the Chesapeake,” said Steve Isaac, Chief of WaterTribe. “Even though the Chesapeake Bay region is heavily populated, there are still wild lands to explore. We are excited to be able to race the wake of historic waters that date back to the early Americans and famous explorers such as Captain John Smith.”

The adventure race is expected to last for three days, beginning early Sunday morning, May 19 at 7:00 a.m.- Tuesday, May 21 at Matapeake State Park, 1112 Romancoke Rd, Stevensville, Maryland 21666. To learn more about race activities and the #FreedomToFloat campaign, which includes a network of Chesapeake boaters, small businesses, civic groups, non-profit organizations, paddlers, and recreational enthusiasts dedicated to expanding access throughout the Chesapeake watershed, please visit


About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA and its 750,000 members and supporters work together to protect our National Park System and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for our children and grandchildren. For more information, please visit

About WaterTribe: The purpose of WaterTribe is to encourage the development of boats, equipment, skills, and human athletic performance for safe and efficient coastal cruising using minimal impact human and wind powered watercraft based on kayaks, canoes, and small sailboats. For more information, please visit

About Chesapeake Light Craft: Chesapeake Light Craft is the world's largest manufacturer of build-your-own-boat Kits. CLC's original, award-winning boat designs include kayaks, canoes, rowing boats, dinghies, and sailboats. They sold their 20,000th kit in 2010, and countless thousands more are built from plans. CLC designs are built by amateurs and professionals alike in more than 70 countries around the world. CLC is also a major discount source of boatbuilding materials and boating accessories.  For more information, please visit



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