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© Chesapeake Bay Program (Chesapeake)

Conservation Priority: Human Health

Our Goal:

Provide people access to parks and trail networks within walking and biking distance of their homes and communities. Provide sufficient opportunities along waterways to ensure nearly all residents are within 30 minutes of reaching a public access site at water’s edge.

We need the outdoors. Research findings on the benefits of being outside in nature continues to accumulate. We need places in our cities and communities to walk, run, sit, play, read, and reconnect. We need trails, pocket parks, big parks, and natural areas. We need access to the water, to put in a boat or a canoe, to swim, to fish, to camp nearby. We need these places close to us, so they are a daily part of our lives -- so they can keep us active and healthy. Some people have less access to parks and the water than they deserve and need. We must change that.

This goal differs substantially from the other four. Rather than concentrating on acres to conserve, this goal drives us to identify gaps in access and fill them. These fall into two general categories based on the goal:

Areas with and without a park within walking distance: We are still in the process of mapping these values. This page will be updated as soon as this mapping is available.

  1. Areas with and without water access within a 30 minute drive (excluding traffic considerations): Our mapping illustrates:Areas within 30 minute drive time of public access sites along the water. It is segmented by areas within two groupings of access types: boating access and swimming, fishing and viewing access.
    1. Average population served. This depicts the average population size served by each access site. This indicates potential demand/capacity issues in certain areas.

    The analysis suggests two observations:

    1. The great majority of people living within a wide swath of land near the bay and its tributaries are within a 30 minute drive of one or more public access sites.
    2. This does not mean that existing access sites within a 30 minute drive have the capacity to serve the nearby population. The color-codes of average population served by each access site suggest that sites in many areas serve a high number of people. This is a potential indicator of capacity issues and suggests strategic approach to access development may be warranted. Some access site managers report many sites routinely fill to capacity early on weekend days; this includes some “destination sites” in more rural areas (e.g. a number of state parks).

    Further analysis on this subject is needed. Some of this analysis is currently limited by the adequacy of the existing public access dataset. For example, it does not include comprehensive information on: (a) the specific access facilities at each site; or (b) the capacity of the site to meet user needs (e.g. number of parking spaces). These are key to strategically assessing access needs.

    We will post an assessment of where we stand relative to our goal as soon as the mapping above is complete.

    However, we also track progress toward a goal of adding 300 new public access sites to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries by 2025.

    Health Priorities in the Chesapeake

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