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Governor Ehrlich Announces Dual Initiative to Highlight Chesapeake Bay History
ANNAPOLIS – Demonstrating his vision for a restored Chesapeake Bay reminiscent of colonial times, Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., today announced the kickoff of an environmental education and historical initiative aimed at retracing the voyages of Capt. John Smith.
On June 2, 1608, Captain John Smith and 14 English colonists set out on a journey to explore and map the Chesapeake Bay. Covering more than 1,700 miles in just over three months, Smith and his men saw a Chesapeake Bay that is scarcely imaginable today, with its incredible ecosystem intact and with a multitude of Native American cultures thriving along its shores.
Smith's famous 1612 map resulting from these explorations was the first accurate depiction of the Chesapeake and served as the definitive map of the region for nearly a century. His notes describing the indigenous people and the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem are still widely studied by historians, environmental scientists, and anthropologists.
“This project will preserve and promote the very things that make Maryland a treasure: our history, our culture and our environment. I want to thank our partners in this project for their vision and commitment to preserving Maryland for future generations,” Governor Ehrlich said.
The initiative announced today consists of two components: an educational project and a multi-organizational effort to have Capt. Smith’s historic water trail designated as a National Park. Both are designed to elevate awareness around the region and nation of the heritage, culture and history of the Chesapeake Bay. The initiative partners include: The Conservation Fund, National Geographic Society, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Sultana, Inc., and the Maryland Departments of Education, Business and Economic Development and Natural Resources.
The Capt. John Smith Four-Hundred Project is an undertaking of Sultana Projects, Inc., a non-profit educational organization based in Chestertown, Maryland, best known for providing educational programs on board its reproduction of the 1768 schooner Sultana. The Captain John Smith Four Hundred Project is being developed as a signature product for the Friends of the Chesapeake National Water Trail.
Students from across the Mid-Atlantic region will follow the project through a educational curriculum newly developed by Sultana Projects in conjunction with the partners.
Today Governor Ehrlich presented a piece of the Maryland’s great Wye Oak, the 458-year-old largest white oak in North America, which fell in 2002, as a gift to the Captain John Smith 400 Project, to be used in the construction of the replica of Smith’s vessel. At the time of John Smith’s voyage, the Wye Oak was standing and was only 61 years old.
“For its time and place, Smith's 1608 voyage was as epic as Lewis and Clark's venture nearly 200 years later,” said Joyce Huber Smith, Chairman of Sultana Projects. “Our goal with the Captain John Smith Four-Hundred project is to use the four-hundredth anniversary of this important voyage as a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring alive this critical piece of history for students from throughout the region."
The second component of the initiative is the formation of a new group. The Friends of the Chesapeake National Water Trail mission is to celebrate the unique history and environment of the Chesapeake Bay by creating a lasting legacy for future generations through the establishment of America’s first National Water Trail. The Friends of the Chesapeake National Water Trail is committed to working with Congress and the National Park Service for the trail to receive national park designation.
“It is our hope that this replica of Captain John Smith's shallop will encourage the creation of a Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Water Trail by the National Park Service,” Fund’s Chairman Emeritus, Patrick F. Noonan said. “This historic water trail will inspire generations of kayakers, canoeists, and skippers to follow Smith's journey and explore this national treasure, the Chesapeake Bay.”
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, who will be assisting Sultana in developing the educational curriculum, also praised the initiatives.
“Connecting people to the Bay and its rivers through the John Smith Water Trail will help develop a constituency who are committed to the Bay's restoration. The Bay of today is operating at only about 25% of the productivity of the system John Smith explored,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to Maryland citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 435,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, as well as Maryland's wildlife and fishery species for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, the department manages natural, historic and cultural resources that attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov