About the Trail

About the Trail > Partners

National historic trails are partnership endeavors, spanning vast distances and involving many different jurisdictions. The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail already involves numerous partners, and the number of partnerships will increase as the trail develops.

Two partnership entities are linked to the trail by law. The legislation that created the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail specifies that the trail shall be administered “in coordination with” the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network and the Chesapeake Bay Program.


Organizations

Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network (CBGN)

Authorized by Congress in 1998, CBGN is an extensive partnership network of parks, wildlife refuges, historic sites, museums, water and land trails, and other places throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed that connect people with the authentic Chesapeake. The National Park Service coordinates the Network and helps the designated Gateways provide interpretation, education, and access to Chesapeake Bay places and stories.

More than 170 sites and 1500 miles of water trails already share the CBGN mission to make exploring the Chesapeake a richer, more revealing experience. The majority of these Gateways can be linked thematically and/or geographically to Captain John Smith’s explorations. The feasibility study for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and the legislation that established the trail assume that the trail will build on the established framework of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network.

Chesapeake Bay Program

The Chesapeake Bay Program is the regional partnership that has coordinated and conducted the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay since 1983. Partners include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency representing the federal government, the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the states of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia; the District of Columbia; the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative body; and advisory groups of citizens, scientists, and local government officials. The National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office is part of the Chesapeake Bay Program, providing leadership in education and interpretation to foster citizen stewardship of the Bay.

Developing the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail in coordination with the Chesapeake Bay Program will ensure that the trail contributes to overall Bay restoration goals. Visit the Chesapeake Bay Program website for comprehensive information about the Bay.


Federal Partners

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail involves federal partners linked directly through management of lands along the trail, such as national wildlife refuges, and as part of the Chesapeake Bay Program. Presidential Executive Order 13508 for Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration, signed by President Barack Obama on May 12, 2009, strengthens the federal commitment to restore the Chesapeake Bay. The Executive Order recognizes that the Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure and directs federal agencies to coordinate their efforts to increase access and to conserve landscapes and ecosystems with the Captain John Smith Chesaspeake National Historic Trail. Key federal partners for the trail include:

National Park Service

The National Park Service (NPS) is the lead federal agency in administering the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Legislation that established the trail in 2006 specifies that the Secretary of the Interior will administer the trail in coordination with the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network and the Chesapeake Bay Program. The Secretary delegated administration to the NPS Chesapeake Bay Office. The superintendent of the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office is the superintendent for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

The NPS Chesapeake Bay Office (CHBA) also administers the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network and the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. It is a federal partner in the watershed-wide Chesapeake Bay Program. In all these areas, the NPS Chesapeake Bay Office connects people with the special places and stories of the Chesapeake, helps preserve those special places and stories, and fosters stewardship of the Chesapeake.

In addition to the Chesapeake Bay Office there are several national park units and three national trails on or near the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. The trail overlaps with segments of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, and the Washington Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail.

Environmental Protection Agency

One of the original signers to the 1983 Chesapeake Bay Agreement, the Environmental Protection Agency is the lead federal agency for the Chesapeake Bay Program. The EPA coordinates federal, state, and local Bay restoration efforts and authorities throughout the watershed and provides environmental planning and financial assistance; implements and coordinates science, modeling, data collection, assessment, monitoring, and outreach; and provides information pertaining to the environmental quality and living resources of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. EPA is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Clean Water Act and other environmental authorities.

The National Park Service and EPA have a long-standing memorandum of understanding that commits the two agencies to collaborate on Chesapeake Bay restoration and conservation efforts. Their Chesapeake Bay offices are co-located in Annapolis with several other Chesapeake Bay Program partners.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office focuses NOAA’s capabilities in science, service, and stewardship to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay. NOAA is a partner in the multi-state Chesapeake Bay Program.

To mark points along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office worked with partners to develop the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS). NOAA’s “smart buoys” track meteorological, water condition, and water quality data and relay the information to the public in near real time via toll-free phone (877-BUOY-BAY) and Internet (www.buoybay.noaa.gov). The buoys also interpret history and geography along the John Smith trail.

Data from CBIBS buoys—the first of which was deployed by NOAA to coincide with the launch of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail in May 2007—is used by trail visitors and boaters to help plan a safe day on the Bay, by scientists working to track the Bay’s restoration, and by educators in classrooms to help students learn more about the Bay through science and history.

NOAA and the National Park Service signed a memorandum of understanding in 2008 that commits the two agencies to work closely together to further develop and manage the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System, and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Sixteen national wildlife refuges are located along the route of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. They are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Refuges are public lands and waters set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife, and plants. All of the refuges in proximity to the Smith trail are within the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast Region. Many of these are already part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, working with the National Park Service to provide quality experiences, access to the trail, and Bay connections. The refuges are likely places to see wildlife habitats that retain the character of the Chesapeake landscape known to Captain John Smith.


State and Local Government Partners

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail extends into parts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia. As the trail develops, the National Park Service is working with many different agencies and jurisdictions within these states and the District.

Numerous state parks, public boat ramps, and other public access points exist on or near the trail routes. Departments for natural resources, cultural resources, recreation, education, environment, transportation, and tourism are among the offices that share interest in the trail’s potential for education, recreation, and heritage tourism. These agency partners are helping to identify additional resources and land conservation priorities and to implement the trail in a variety of ways.

Delaware

In addition to assisting trail planners with inventories and analyses of trail resources and public access, Delaware manages a new water trail segment for Captain John Smith’s journey on the Nanticoke River.

Maryland

These offices have been active participants and consultants in the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network since its inception. They are partners in planning and developing the Smith trail by helping to identify additional resources, access points, and conservation priorities.

The National Park Service consults with this state office and also with representatives of individual tribes to engage Maryland’s Native American communities in planning and developing the trail.

Virginia

These offices have also been active participants and consultants in the Smith trail since its inception. Water trail and interpretive projects developed by Virginia for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown created trail interpretation and access in that state, including interpretive trails for the James, York, Mattaponi, and Pamunkey rivers.

The National Park Service  also collaborates with representatives of individual tribes to engage Virginia’s American Indian communities in planning and implementing the trail.

District of Columbia

Washington, D.C., offices are assisting in identifying resources and land conservation priorities, particularly along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.

Chesapeake Bay Commission

The Chesapeake Bay Commission is a policy leader in restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The commission was created in 1980 as a tri-state legislative assembly representing Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania to coordinate Bay-related policy across state lines and to develop shared solutions. The commission’s leadership covers a full spectrum of Bay issues, from managing living resources and conserving land to protecting water quality.


Non-Government Organizations

The impetus for creating the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail came from organizations and individuals who saw the potential of the trail to attract new interest in the Chesapeake Bay. These organizations, as well as many others, help to broaden and sustain the base of support for the trail.

Tim Barrett explaining the Trail to an interested visitor.
Friends of the John Smith Chesapeake Trail help promote interest in the trail at public events.

The Chesapeake Conservancy

The Chesapeake Conservancy formed in 2010 from the merger of the Friends of the John Smith Chesapeake Trail—an organization founded in 2005 to lead the effort to establish and facilitate the trail—and the Friends of the Chesapeake Gateways—founded in 2005 to build Gateway organizational capacity and assist in achieving the Network’s goals. Both organizations worked in partnership with the National Park Service through cooperative agreements, as does the Chesapeake Conservancy.

The Chesapeake Conservancy is dedicated to ensuring the conservation, stewardship, access, and enjoyment of the Chesapeake’s iconic landscapes and waterways and its cultural and historical assets, highlighted by the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network. The Chesapeake Conservancy works toward three strategic goals:

  • To realize the full potential of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, and coordinate with other Chesapeake Bay trails to promote recreation and tourism along with education about the Bay and its waterways
  • To generate and direct public and private financial and technical resources to conserve the Bay’s significant landscapes and expand public access
  • To advance the establishment of new conservation, recreation, and public access corridor designations on the Chesapeake.

The Chesapeake Conservancy partners with the National Park Service on numerous trail projects, such as the online Boater’s Guide to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and the interactive exhibit kiosk at Historic Jamestowne visitor center.

Learn more about the work of the Chesapeake Conservancy.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) was one of the founding supporters for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. CBF is the largest privately funded, nonprofit organization dedicated solely to protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay. CBF’s mission is to restore and sustain the Bay’s ecosystem by substantially improving the water quality and productivity of the watershed.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has adopted Captain John Smith’s descriptions of the Chesapeake in the early 1600s as a baseline for a rich and balanced Bay. CBF presents an annual State of the Bay report comparing the current health of the Bay to that baseline.

The Conservation Fund

The Conservation Fund (TCF) played a supporting role in establishing the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. The Fund is a national environmental organization dedicated to protecting America’s most important landscapes and waterways, such as the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Its mission is to promote both sustainable economic development and environmental protection. Through a partnership-driven approach, the Conservation Fund works to preserve America’s outdoor heritage. Since 1985, the Fund and its partners have protected more than 6 million acres of working lands, wild havens, community open space and more.

The Conservation Fund recently financed and structured six land conservation projects in Maryland and Virginia, protecting more than 6,000 acres and 25 miles of shoreline along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. The Fund continues to play a role in land conservation efforts associated with the trail. Learn more about the Fund’s efforts on behalf of the John Smith trail.

National Geographic

National Geographic was another early supporter in the creation of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” National Geographic joined the Smith trail initiative to encourage modern-day exploration and appreciation of the Chesapeake Bay. National Geographic’s outstanding publications, interactive website, and educational resources continue to bring alive the many facets of Captain John Smith’s explorations for audiences of all ages.

Interactive Content

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