Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep. Bobby Scott visited Fort Monroe on Friday to hear more about an effort to add the Chesapeake Bay region to the federal park system. 

The proposal, which is specifically land-based, would create a Chesapeake National Recreation Area.

Environmental groups and lawmakers, including Kaine and Scott, have supported the move, which would put the area under the National Park Service. 

Maryland Democrats Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. John Sarbanes introduced new legislation in Congress, which if passed could pave the way for additional funding, tourism and federal protection for the bay.

NPS would be able to acquire or partner with initial sites throughout the area, including the North Beach of Fort Monroe.

This would not allow the government to impose additional regulations on recreational or business activities in the bay’s waters. 

The idea of turning the area into a national park has been around since the 1960s. National recreation areas are distinct from national parks under NPS jurisdiction. 

Recreation areas are typically given the designation due to their proximity to water. They promote water-based activities like fishing and kayaking. NPS oversees roughly a dozen of them. 

Kaine said Friday he’s thankful for advocates' continued push to legally protect the area.

Kaine also emphasized the importance of being able to acquire land for the proposed recreation area and the establishment of the Chesapeake Gateways Program.

The gateways program was established by Congress in 1998 and is used by NPS to increase public access to the Chesapeake Bay. They fund infrastructure builds like piers and signs to identify the bay and its tributaries. 

Scott said that he’s looking forward to the area receiving the national designation so leaders can continue to tell its significant history. 

The region is already home to the 3,000-mile Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and the Fort Monroe National Monument.