This presentation is part of the online document Acknowledging Landscapes: Presentations from the National Register Landscape Initiative.
Suzanne Copping: My name is Suzanne Copping and I am in the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay office, located in Annapolis, Maryland. Our office administers the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, and we’re also a federal partner in the Chesapeake Bay Program, which is a federal initiative to restore the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Finally, we’re the lead for the Executive Order to restore the Chesapeake for the Land Conservation and Public Access goals. Our office does quite a lot of partnership work with states and local governments and private non-profit partners throughout our six-state watershed.
We’re looking right here at an imagery of the outline of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which is 64,000 acres. It crosses six states. You might see the outline – you’ll see the Chesapeake Bay there with the majority of blue lines in it. That’s the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. We’ve got Washington, D.C. and Richmond and Baltimore and Harrisburg all within this watershed. It crosses six states and there are about 17,000,000 people living within our watershed. It’s highly developed with a lot of history and a lot of really interesting geography and a lot of growth and development pressures, so a very dynamic area. The blue line here indicates the John Smith Trail, which totals 2,000 miles from the mouth of the bay up to Cooperstown, New York.
And I wish I had reversed this map, 90 degrees counterclockwise, because if I had you would’ve seen how accurate this map from four hundred years ago really is. This is the map that Captain John Smith drew when he traveled the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries between 1607 and 1609. His map from four hundred years ago was so accurate that it was actually used for navigation for quite a long time after. I’m not going to say the number because I’ll probably get it wrong, but it was so useful that if you overlay it with a satellite map today, the lines of the rivers are almost exact. It’s just an incredibly powerful, incredibly detailed map. For that reason, it really shaped the development of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries for centuries to come.
What’s also interesting thing to think about is this four hundred -year-old map was the basis for a lot of speculation about how this landscape has changed over the last four hundred years. You’ll see as I continue on with this presentation that while we can know a lot about where trail resources are along the John Smith Trail, there’s a whole lot that we don’t know, and there’s a whole lot that we will never know. Because we just don’t have – if we went and looked at this from a scientific or from a research perspective, there’s just a whole lot that we don’t know, because it isn’t documented, and we’ll probably never know. That’s a tricky thing when it comes to resources because we want to do the archaeology, we want to find out exactly where things were four hundred years ago, and especially with the water trail, we’re not always able to do that.
I have excerpted here just the short statement that speaks to the John Smith Trail itself. This is an excerpt from the National Trails System Act of 1966. This language is what designated the John Smith Trail. Gretchen has already covered a good bit of what national trails are. The John Smith Trail is one of 30 national historic and scenic trails in the National Trails System and it’s a permanent designation. The Parks Service administers some of these trails, and Forest Service or BLM administer some of the other national trails. The legislation also suggested approximately 3,000 miles along the Chesapeake Bay. John Smith traveled many of the tributaries and the bay itself several times. We say today that it was about 2,000 miles total. That’s still a pretty big distance.
This is just a map of the U.S. as Gretchen indicated earlier. We have quite a network of national trails across the United States.
I’m not sure if this was covered earlier so I’ll just touch on this very generally. This is another excerpt from the National Trails System Act of 1966, which articulates when a trail is under a special resource study, the criteria that the proposed route has to meet in order to be considered for a National Scenic or a National Historic trail designation. Those three criteria speak to the significance of the resource itself and of the story that can be interpreted along it of the integrity of that resource and of the potential for public recreation and public access.
Something I find particularly interesting, and our office has recently been poking at a little bit more is, this is the third and final statement I’ve just pulled out for your attention, from the National Trails System Act, but this language stating that in the special resource study, that the study itself must go before discussion with the Advisory Board and speaking to the national significance of the route, this is just for national historic trails, but that the historic trail route must meet the significance criteria as developed under the Historic Sites Act of 1935. It’s interesting because the kind of criteria that a proposed trail is subject to is pretty close to the National Historic Landmark criteria. Some of those trails, like the Appalachian, end up as park units, and some, like the John Smith Trail and others, do not.
After the trail is designated, the National Trails System Act is amended and the trail is designated in perpetuity and a comprehensive management plan is written, just like a general management plan for a park. In the case of the John Smith Trail, I’ll just speak to a few of the things that are articulated in the management plan, certainly the purposes of the national historic trail, which are to commemorate the journeys of John Smith in 1607 to 1609, to extend knowledge about the American Indian presence in the landscape back in 1607 to 1609 and through until today, to interpret those stories of American Indians and their perspectives then and now, and to enhance recreation opportunities along the 2,000-mile trail.
The three themes that are articulated in the management plan are closely aligned with those purposes for the national trail, the commemoration, the interpretation, and the recreation.
Key to commemorating and interpreting and making relevant the national historic trail are two main types of activities. Those two types of activities associated with administering the trail are supporting the visitor experience and protecting trail-related resources. With regard to supporting the visitor experience, that’s perhaps more on the interpretive side of things and the infrastructure side of things in terms of developing new water access sites so that people can get on and get off the water, making those sites more available to people, and publicizing that knowledge about it. And also making people more aware of some of the pretty, remote places that they can get to now that are evocative of a landscape four hundred years ago.
That’s really where visitor experience and conserving the trail resources become intertwined and become one in the same, because in order to experience a landscape evocative of four hundred years ago, those resources have to be protected, and while there are a number of areas that evoke that landscape of four hundred years ago, many of those areas are not now protected. Some of them may be national wildlife refuges or have other permanent designations, but others are not, and of course by encouraging more visitation to these places, you encourage them to become more visible and you potentially open up opportunities for that landscape to be impacted.
As a national historic trail, with one of the main purposes being interpretation and expanding knowledge about American Indian communities then and now, interpretation is a really big aspect of the National Historic Trail and part of what we do and part of what a lot of other partners do. This is an unveiling of a kiosk.
One of the beautiful things about this National Historic Trail, and I’ll dip into it a little bit later, is that this trail has been, and I guess somebody like Deanna would probably be more appropriate to say this, but has given American Indians a voice. They have been at the table, and a willing and excited partner at the table, and this trail would be a completely different trail without them. This trail is really a way that we can, as a term I’ve heard used, re-indigenize this landscape to give American Indians back some of their place in it through the commemoration of John Smith’s travels but also through a much more explicit, much more direct, much more aggressive effort at land conservation along these river ways.
This is a cover for the “Conservation Strategy for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historical Trail.” To our knowledge in this office, while there are thirty National Historic and Scenic Trails, there aren’t a whole lot of conservation strategies or conservation plans for National Historic Trails yet. This may be one of the first. It does focus on the different types of resources along the trail and establish a way forward for prioritizing where to protect some of those resources and how they might best be protected. Really just a reminder here that as other national historic trails, and actually in particular with national historic trails on the east coast, very little of the national trail route is on federal land. Most of this land is in other people’s hands.
The interesting thing about the John Smith Trail is the route, as articulated in the National Trails System Act, is all water, it’s all water-based, but as Gretchen had gotten into before, when you’re starting to look at the boundaries of what the trail are, the boundaries don’t end at the shoreline, because the only way to really experience what people were experiencing here in the Chesapeake four hundred years ago, you need the land to help you make that connection. Really in looking at conservation, that’s where we start to really struggle with what are the boundaries of this trail and how do we protect the land so our experience along the water can be as evocative now and as special now as it was intended to be with this trail designation.
The other side of the visitor experience coin is conserving these trail resources. I’m going to get a little bit into what’s said in the Conservation Strategy and then get into after that, some of our issues with actually implementing that strategy moving forward.
The Conservation Strategy, essentially it’s about a twenty-page document and it is available on our website, nps.gov/cajo. The strategy itself sets out a scorecard approach for breaking down the 2,000 miles of the John Smith Trail, segment by segment, and looking at three criteria for establishing a rough cut of importance of that segment as a way to prioritize which segments to drill a little deeper into and document at a finer grain.
The three categories are, the setting itself and just how much integrity it has – so is it intact, is there maybe a boat dock or a soft launch site, so it’s a little bit developed but you can’t really tell what kind of development. Is there a town there or houses along the waterfront or are you going through the center of Baltimore? Setting is one characteristic. A second is just how protected the area is or how threatened it is. Then the third is, what opportunities are there for interpretation. That gets, to some extent, to what we know or think may have happened in that particular location.
This is a map here which is, I’m noticing, is impossibly difficult to see, so I will try to walk you through the most important aspects of it. We’re looking right now at a map of the tidal Chesapeake, so at the top edge of the page is Havre de Grace and the mouth of the Susquehanna River, which is very close to the Pennsylvania border. Then we’re looking about two hundred miles south at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay where it opens up into the Atlantic Ocean, we’re looking at Virginia Beach and Norfolk and Newport News. This being the tidal, part of the John Smith Trail, this is the area that is included and further described within the Comprehensive Management Plan.
What this map is attempting to indicate, and this is an excerpt from the Conservation Strategy, is it’s showing the overlays of particular resources, including the already protected areas, which are the green spaces, and in a slightly different shade of green, the areas that are evocative of four hundred years ago. These are the areas that still might be worth protecting.
Then we have overlaid on top of that some other kinds of resource types. I’ll get to a diagram of that in a minute, but some of those other resource types include known archaeological sites. They include approximate sites of where John Smith indicated in his maps and journals that he interacted with American Indians. They also include sites that are approximate locations of town sites, of American Indian town sites, again approximate, because sometimes those sites are based on John Smith’s map and sometimes only John Smith’s map, and other times we may have some other kinds of evidence from elsewhere overlaid over it, but nonetheless may be somewhat approximate.
Then there’s also some much more well-known resources based on actual archaeological investigations or other forms of research where we have more of a degree of specificity about the locations of the resources. This is just to establish a hierarchy, category one, category two, category three, where are the areas that are going to be most important for the national trail going forward to really focus on resource protection efforts. It being a 2,000-mile trail, there has to be some kind of priority setting about where to invest our time and our limited resources.
I’m just going to walk you through a diagram of the types of trail resources that are along the John Smith Trail. This is an illustration to try to drill down a little bit at what makes up the portfolio of trail-related resources. There’s the line on the map itself, which is a line down the center of a river. Then there’s the visitor, him or herself in the water, in some kind of boat. There’s the trail viewshed and that’s what you look at, that’s what you see, that’s the landscape on either side of you. Then we’ve got these individual archaeological sites, we’ve got individual access sites, which is where people get onto the water or get out of the water. We’ve got voyage stops, which are places indicated on John Smith’s map as places where he stopped.
Then we’ve got indigenous culture landscapes. My next couple of slides will touch on that just a little bit. Indigenous culture landscapes have a combination of natural and cultural elements that make them strongly likely as places where American Indians – and that’s the trail corridor, that dotted line.
Here’s our definition. You can read it along with me as I’m reading it out loud. The indigenous cultural landscapes illustrate that combination of “cultural and natural resources that would have supported the historic lifestyles and settlement patterns of an Indian group in their totality.” What’s interesting in my western mind about indigenous cultural landscapes, is really that they blur the line between cultural and natural resources. That’s some of the criteria that are used to identify these cultural landscapes are things like soil types and geology and geography because they provide indications of what life may have been like in that location four hundred years ago and the kind of life systems that that area could have supported.
Deanna and I and a few others are going to be presenting on ICL’s for an hour and a half later this week, so there’s a lot more that I could get into, but I just wanted to give you a quick sampling, given this National Register audience, about an example of an ICL on the Nanticoke River. This is on the eastern shore of Maryland and Delaware. The Nanticoke in some places looks like this. It’s quite evocative but there’s also some very limited growth. We see a dock here on the right-hand side of this image.
This is an excerpt of a map. The reason why I included this up here is we can see different data layers in GIS that indicate the kinds of soil types and species types and agriculturally productive land and places where dependent communities also indicated that there was significance to them in their lives today. This map here illustrates the overlay of different types of values associated with the landscape. This is one way to drill down a little bit deeper and try to get an understanding of not only where these stories, where the perspectives of American Indians can be told, but also where the landscapes are today that are worthy of continued attention and protection.
This is also getting into a territory that is really pretty new but it also perhaps has an impact in how we think about documenting cultural landscapes going forward when there isn’t anything built on them. The record itself is something that is pieced together through different kinds of documentation than we may be looking at if we’re looking at other kinds of cultural landscapes.
This aerial view here is the site of Werowocomoco, which archaeological evidence indicates was the seat of Powhatan’s power when John Smith went up the York River between 1607 and 1609. This landscape here is an example also of an evocative landscape and it is currently the subject of several protection efforts that are under way to protect that landscape permanently. It’s also the subject of continued archaeological research to more clearly locate some of the structures that had been on that site approximately four hundred years ago and even earlier than that. This is at a site level. This is also quite a big site so it’s also cultural landscape, but at a site level, the kind of resource protection that needs to happen along a 2,000-mile trail.
There’s some larger landscape scale conservation efforts going on in the Chesapeake, which potentially provide some opportunities for cultural landscape protection, as I mentioned earlier, Executive Order 13508: Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration.
This effort is looking at protecting two million acres in the watershed by 2025 and it cites the John Smith Trail as being a primary focus of land protection efforts. There’s also a Chesapeake Conservation Partnership, which is bringing together state, local, federal, private, and nonprofit partners to align their conservation priorities to further induce greater land protection efforts than we could do alone.
Part of that effort is mapping to look at where the John Smith Trail overlays with other kinds of protection efforts going on. Again, this is just one more way that the National Park Service is looking at other resources, other partners, to initiate resource protection along the John Smith Trail.
LandScope Chesapeake, this is a publicly accessible mapping tool on the internet, is another way that the National Park Service is working with other partners to document existing protected lands and to look at priorities for land protection. Again, because of our 2,000-mile trail, we need to be innovative about ways that we can get other people to protect land on our behalf.
Then a third effort that we’re working on with other federal agency partners is protecting viewsheds and landscapes along the John Smith Trail through Land and Water Conservation Fund’s collaborative funding, as a way to protect those lands either that the Park Service owns or that other agencies end up owning.
These are some of the bubbled areas. You may remember from the map earlier that these bubbled yellow areas are also the areas that are those high potential segments along the John Smith Trail, the areas that are of highest priority to protect.
As others have mentioned in previous presentations, with a 2,000-mile trail, you end up facing more and more it seems, energy proposals, development proposals, and these other kinds of large scale projects that are going to have an impact on the evocative landscapes along your trail.
This is an area that has really raised the urgency of our office’s need to find creative ways to protect these landscapes through earlier efforts I mentioned, LWCF and the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership and others, but also to work with our state SHPO offices to find ways to use the National Register to recognize important trail segments along the John Smith Trail. The trail itself isn’t listed and we haven’t submitted multiple properties designations or other individual sites for listing yet. Because this is a national trail, segments of it likely meet eligibility criteria, and so this is really an area where our office is focusing on this year moving forward is identifying, we already know where the most important landscapes are, but getting those cultural landscapes further mapped.
The architectural record is slim, so we are looking at high level viewshed analysis, this James River viewshed analysis looks at the view from a one-meter scale and the green areas identify the areas that are evocative landscapes. It’s just one way to map the trail resource, which really is the views themselves, as a way of furthering the conversation about what must be protected in order for the visitor experience to be maintained.
Really the issue for us is, as is probably the issue for many other trails and other types of corridor designations, is that it takes funding and it takes staff resources to map, document, and inventory thousands of miles of route. It really is in our case a multi-state effort and it’s going to take quite a while to build our portfolio state by state to get segments of this trail listed as eligible or nominated for the National Register.
I think I did also want to mention some of our opportunities, which is really that the indigenous cultural landscapes concept has some legs on it and is one way to articulate the multiple values that many of these landscapes have, and that with the John Smith Trail, we really have American Indian communities at the table and the states are at the table and we have a lot of people at the table that can help to get some of these segments better documented, better inventoried, and registered as appropriate. I think there are opportunities out there and I really look forward to hearing some of your questions and comments about ways for moving forward.