Chesapeake Country National Scenic Byway reaches Chesapeake City on the C&D Canal. Photo: Jennifer Schmidt

Chesapeake Scenic Byway Designated “All-American Road”

Maryland’s Eastern Shore was already home to the Chesapeake Country National Scenic Byway, a designated route running from Kent Island to Chesapeake City, and now the Shore is celebrating an even bigger national honor.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) “America’s Byways” just announced the establishment of the Chesapeake Country All-American Road, a more than 400-mile route from Chesapeake City to Smith Island on country roads along the Chesapeake Bay’s edge.

The Chesapeake Country All-American Road is one of 49 routes newly added to the National Scenic Byways Program. It’s the first time new All-American Roads and Scenic Byways have been added since 2009.

The nonprofit group Scenic America initiated the push to bring back the federal program, allowing for new route nominations and government funding. The program recognizes roadways with “notable scenic, historic, cultural, natural, recreational, and archaeological qualities.”

And it will give the Eastern Shore a significant boost in national visibility and tourism funds.

The previous Chesapeake Country National Scenic Byway (above) only recognized Queen Anne’s and Kent counties; the new All American Road (below) extends to Crisfield and Smith Island. Maps: Maryland Scenic Byways

“The National Scenic Byways Program brings new jobs, tourism, and other benefits to communities along these scenic roads, which are often located in parts of the country where such resources are desperately needed and harder to come by,” says Scenic America President Mark Falzone.

And that desperate need is underscored by the serious blow the COVID-19 pandemic has delivered to small towns that depend on vacationers, festivals, and events.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) was among the lawmakers leading the charge to pass The Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act, restoring the program and $16 million in funding.

“The inclusion of the Chesapeake Country All-American Road in the National Scenic Byways network will open new doors for federal funding that can help Maryland communities preserve, showcase and monetize their historic, cultural, natural, recreational and tourism resources,” says Senator Cardin.

The All-American Road designation expands the Shore’s nationally-recognized byway from only a two-county stretch to the entire length of Maryland. And it’s a more prestigious title, elevating the significance of the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway.

Maryland Department of Commerce Office of Tourism’s Marci Ross tells Bay Bulletin, “An All-American Road must demonstrate two nationally significant intrinsic qualities and it must demonstrate its appeal to international markets…”The designation is a recognition of the one-of-a-kind authentic stories and experiences that are found only on and around the Chesapeake Bay.”

The Eastern Shore counties and towns the Chesapeake Country route will pass through welcome the news with open arms.

“The All-American Road designation simply tells people what we already know. The Eastern Shore of Maryland is a very special place,” said Cassandra M. Vanhooser, the Director of Economic Development and Tourism for Talbot County. “Not only is this national designation a source of tremendous community pride, it will help us present our assets in such a way that visitors can more easily experience them.”

-Meg Walburn Viviano