On July 27, Senator Chris Van Hollen and Congressman John Sarbanes introduced legislation that will designate a unified Chesapeake National Recreation Area (CNRA) as part of the National Park System in Maryland. In response, Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation, released the following statement of support.
"We applaud the leadership of Sen. Van Hollen and Congressman Sarbanes to designate the Chesapeake National Recreation Area as a part of the National Park System. Not only will this new national recreation area provide more resources to these scenic places and foster improved access to the coast, but it will also honor the region’s diverse heritage. Establishing the CNRA will allow all stories of the watershed, its citizens, and its history to be shared with visitors from across the world.
“In Maryland and across the country, Latino, Black, Asian, Indigenous, and other communities face what is called the “nature gap,” a disproportionate lack of green space in neighborhoods of color compared to predominantly White neighborhoods. This means that communities of color are less likely to have nature and coastal access and therefore miss out on all the benefits that these green and blue spaces bring. In the Chesapeake region, these communities are three times more likely to be deprived of nearby nature than White people.
“The need for Latinos to breathe fresh air and enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of the Chesapeake is greater than ever. Creating this recreation area will provide more avenues for our communities to recreate outdoors, connect with nature, and spend time with their loved ones. Investing in nearby nature will create jobs, enrich our children’s education, improve public health, protect from the climate emergency, and safeguard clean air, water, and a healthy environment for all. To bridge the nature gap, we must create more parks and protected nature areas. The Chesapeake National Recreation Area would do just that."
The bill was created collaboratively with input from impacted communities. Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Sarbanes released the CNRA discussion draft and map for public feedback in November 2022 and hosted a nearly six-month public comment period, which included several listening sessions with groups such as local elected officials, neighborhood community organizations, and interested parties across the watershed. The designation of the Chesapeake National Recreation Area would be an important contribution to the national America the Beautiful initiative.