Exelon Corporation Donates Roberts Island to Maryland

ANNAPOLIS — On behalf of Maryland’s citizens, Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. on Thursday accepted the gift of Roberts Island in Harford County from Exelon Corporation, one of the nation’s largest electric utilities. At the event overlooking the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, Conservation Fund Chairman Emeritus Patrick F. Noonan joined the Governor in announcing new efforts to support the Captain John Smith Four-Hundred Project, an educational initiative retracing Smith’s historic Chesapeake Bay voyages.

“On behalf of the citizens of the State of Maryland, I am pleased to accept the gift of Roberts Island from Exelon Corporation,” Governor Ehrlich said. “The island is rich in Native American history, and will be a welcome addition to Susquehanna State Park as well as an important landmark along the Chesapeake National Historic Water Trail.”

"We are delighted to be able to donate Roberts Island to the State of Maryland,” said Elizabeth Moler, Executive Vice President of Exelon Corporation. “The Conservation Fund's work to establish the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Water Trail led us to realize the island's historic significance. Roberts Island has been a part of the Conowingo Project, so it has been protected from development by the Exelon Corporation.”

Roberts Island rests in the Susquehanna River offshore from the area known as “Rock Run” in Susquehanna State Park, down river from the Conowingo Dam near the junction of Deer Creek. The island, which is approximately 1,000 meters long and 150 meters across, was among those noted by Smith on his original map of the Chesapeake Bay.

Patrick Noonan, Chairman Emeritus of The Conservation Fund, congratulated Exelon for their timely gift on the eve of the 400th anniversary of Smith's exploration of the Chesapeake Bay. "The island is the Northern most extent of Smith's voyages and will be an important legacy site in the lower Susquehanna for the proposed Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail." He concluded by stating that "the conservation of this island further demonstrates the State of Maryland's leadership in the effort to establish the Nation's first all-water National Historic Trail."

Following Moler’s presentation, Conservation Fund Chairman Emeritus Pat Noonan joined Governor Ehrlich in reiterating support for official designation of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Water Trail, as well as the Captain John Smith Four-Hundred Project, an educational initiative of Sultana Projects, Inc. A hearing regarding the trail’s official designation before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources is scheduled for September 28.

“The Chesapeake National Historic Water Trail will be another outstanding attraction joining our booming heritage tourism industry in Maryland,” said Governor Ehrlich. “Innovative partnerships like this one allow us to preserve and promote our cultural and natural resources, support environmental and historic education, and foster tourism – which contributed more than $10 billion to our Maryland’s economy last year.”

Governor Ehrlich announced his support for a $923,000 Chesapeake College grant application to the U.S. Department of Labor Community-Based Jobs Training Grant to educate watermen to become de facto tour guides of the Trail. The Upper Shore Workforce Investment Board, the Maryland Watermen’s Association, the Maryland Tourism Council and The Conservation Fund have all endorsed this project, which would create a new income stream for Maryland’s commercial watermen.

The Governor also presented a Letter of Safe Conduct – a document historically given to the captain or master of a ship by his country’s ruler before a voyage—to the Sultana Project, via a Captain John Smith re-enactor, portrayed by Maryland Park Service Chief of Interpretive Services Steve McCoy. This document will be used by the shallop crew during next summer’s tour of the Bay.

Also today, Chesapeake Bay Trust Executive Director David O’Neill presented a $60,000 grant to Drew McMullen, President of Sultana Projects., Inc, to support public education and awareness of the shallop excursion. A full-scale replica of Smith's Discovery Barge, the 30-foot open boat used during his voyages, was built last year at the Sultana Shipyard in Chestertown, where shipwrights relied exclusively upon 17th century tools and construction techniques.

The shallop is currently being exhibited in museums throughout the United States and England, and is scheduled to retrace the route of Smith's expeditions in the summer of 2007. School children from across the region will follow the Project though an educational curriculum being developed by Sultana Projects in conjunction with the Maryland State Department of Education and the Friends of the Chesapeake National Water Trail.

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