The usual reaction I get when I tell people I work for the National Park Service is "wow, you must get great access to parks". The assumption is that I get special access to parks when I’m out shooting photos, but this is not the case.  In actuality, I have no better access than any other photographer looking to capture Bay scenes.

In fact, like others, I’m left to negotiate the disappointingly limited public access found around the Chesapeake Bay. More specifically, public access on the western shore of the Chesapeake (where I live) is very limited for those who don’t own either a boat (in my case I own a kayak) or own waterfront property. In my neighborhood, where I literally live less than a mile in every direction from water, almost every single access point has a no tresspassing sign or even locked gates "protecting" access points in some cases. Anne Arundel County, home to Annapolis and parts of Balitmore, has an incredible 534 miles of shoreline - but only two public boat ramps to serve the public. These limitations don’t only impact photographers like myself, but anyone else wishing to experience the Chesapeake.

Fortunately, increasing public access is an issue that is a core part of the Bay restoration movement - and one that some of my work colleagues are focusing on. While I don’t personally advocate for government intruding on land owner rights, I do hope that some waterfront property owners will feel compelled to donate (or sell) their property so that more public access points can be created. And that solutions can be found to build new access areas closer to people’s homes, rather than having to jump into a car and drive to a park.

All is not lost however. There are some fantastic opportunities found throughout the Bay region to access and experience the splendor of the Chesapeake - places like Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center. Last time I visited Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge (near Rock Hall, Md) I saw over 25 bald eagles, while paddling around the island.

Get out and explore!

17-October-2011 | Chesapeake Bay