Feds eye upgrading John Smith's bay trail
Capt. John Smith was the Chesapeake Bay's original tour guide, sailing and paddling with his crew of English settlers over 3,000 miles of water then teeming with forests, fish and wildlife - not to mention native Americans.
Smith's early 17th century travels, recorded by him in maps and writings, are now officially memorialized as the nation's first water trail, authorized by Congress in 2006. It's still a work in progress, though, and now the National Park Service has drawn up a comprehensive management plan that weighs how to improve public access to the trail and how best to use it to educate people on the bay's natural history and its native culture.
One idea - the park service's "preferred alternative" - is to flesh out a land route complementing Smith's water travels. That would ensure that the trail isn't reserved solely for hardy outdoors types in kayaks and canoes -a big plus. But it also could add appreciably to the trail's expense and change the experience, too.
The plan also talks about placing more historic signs and education centers around the bay and preserving those bits of the landscape that still resemble the wilderness Smith traveled through 400-plus years ago.
Members of the public have until Nov. 5 to share their views about how they'd like to see the trail developed and managed over the next 20 years. To learn more about the trail, go here and here. To see the plan and comment on it, go here.
("Smiths Falls" historic marker on Route 222 north of Port Deposit, where explorers paddled up Susquehanna River until stopped by rocks. 2005 Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston)