Press Release Nov 17, 2011

Parks Group Report Urges Restoration of Chesapeake Watershed to Ensure Preservation of National Park Sites Tied to Pivotal Moments in Founding of United States

'Protecting Our Chesapeake, Protecting Our National Parks' narrative identifies challenges faced by Patapsco River in Maryland and James River in Virginia and how those issues negatively impact the historic character, environments of Fort McHenry, Colonial and Fort Monroe park sites.

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the National Parks Conservation Association released a new report detailing the natural and human histories of two main feeder rivers for the Chesapeake Bay and how changes through the last three centuries in those rivers — the James in Virginia and the Patapsco in Maryland — have negatively influenced National Park Service (NPS) sites around the Bay and how restoration efforts in the Bay watershed will improve the park sites as well as the health of the entire Chesapeake landscape. The report includes specific details on how pollution and sediment runoff in these rivers have impacted the historic and natural character of Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, which is located at the mouth of the Patapsco River in Maryland, and Colonial National Historical Park (NHP) and newly designated Fort Monroe National Monument, both of which are located near the mouth of the James River in Virginia.


Protecting Our Chesapeake, Protecting Our National Parks

The Chesapeake Bay watershed is home to more than 50 national park units. Shenandoah National Park in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, and the C&O…

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“These rivers are integral to the landscape of the Chesapeake Bay and their restoration is necessary both for the improved health of the Bay and so the national park sites located around it are able to tell the complete story of the cultural and natural history of our nation,” said NPCA Water Program Director Chad Lord. “The health of the national parks in the Chesapeake watershed depends on the health of the landscapes that surround them. The parks around the Chesapeake face many of the same threats that the Chesapeake and its rivers face.”

The report points out that one of the main threats to the rivers and Bay is from runoff, which brings storm water runoff and siltation that degrades water quality. It also includes recommendations for lessening the impact of these threats and cleaning up the rivers and Bay. It highlights that in addition to preserving and restoring the character of these park sites, these efforts will also create economic rewards. Both Fort McHenry and Colonial NHP are major contributors to local economies, as Fort Monroe is also expected to be once officially opened, and that cleaner rivers and a healthier Bay will only increase interest and attraction to these important sites.

“Addressing these threats is critical to improving the water quality surrounding Fort McHenry, Fort Monroe and Colonial NHP and ensuring that visitors to the parks enjoy the natural surroundings as well as the historic cultural features,” Lord said. “From the time 10,000 years ago when the first American Indians inhabited this region, these waterways have remained a vital part of the lives of the people who depend on the rivers and Bay for transportation, sustenance, and livelihoods. Today they remain just as significant to the ecological and economic wellbeing of this region and our nation.”

According to NPS, more than 600,000 people visited Fort McHenry in 2009. They spent almost $38 million and helped to support more than 450 jobs.& Likewise, Colonial NHP had more than 3.3 million people visit in 2009, spending more than $56 million and helping to generate 777 jobs.

Click here to view the full report


About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit

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