The National Park Service is seeking to expand its presence around the Chesapeake Bay with a proposal that would provide funding for a variety of projects, including two visitors centers.

The proposal was released last week at the end of a two-year study of the Park Service's role regarding the Chesapeake.

As part of the study, the Park Service considered creating a national park or national reserve somewhere around the bay.

But those options were discarded in favor of a more conservative one: extending and modifying the Park Service's role as coordinator of a group of more than 120 museums, parks and other attractions called the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.

In Southern Maryland, the network includes at least 17 sites. The Park Service's role as coordinator of the network was supposed to end in 2008, but the study concluded it should go on, said Jonathan Doherty, director of the National Park Service's Chesapeake Bay office.

Doherty said the Park Service wants to expand its budget for Chesapeake activities from about $2.5 million to $3 million a year.

In addition, he said, the study called for a commitment of $5 million for two visitors centers that will introduce people to the "big-picture themes of the Chesapeake."

One of the visitors centers would probably be in the northern bay, in the Baltimore or Annapolis area, and the other in Hampton Roads, officials said. More detailed plans for the visitors centers have not been completed.

Doherty said the plan "is really trying to make the most of a core set [of] authentic Chesapeake places."

He said the study's consideration of a possible "Chesapeake Bay Estuary National Park" did not advance to the point that any particular sites were considered.

That idea would not have made the entire bay -- a 200-mile-long body of water with 11,600 miles of coastline -- into a national park. Instead, the plan would have been to adopt a smaller area that would give visitors a sense of the larger bay.

But, Doherty said, the bay was too diverse an ecosystem to be captured in a small area.

The plan will be presented to U.S. Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton for a final decision, Doherty said. If the 2008 "sunset date" is to be removed, he said, it would require action by Congress.

Marriott Plans Hotel

Marriott International plans to build an 87-room, four-story, SpringHill Suites hotel at the Westlake North development off Route 2/4 in Prince Frederick, the Bethesda-based lodging management firm and the Calvert County Department of Economic Development announced Friday.

Groundbreaking for the project is expected to take place next month, economic development officials said, with construction to be completed next summer. Officials project that the hotel will create 15 full-time and four part-time jobs.

The 52,000-square-foot hotel will offer a boardroom for meetings, an 1,800-square-foot meeting room capable of accommodating as many as 100 people, an indoor pool and an exercise room, according to plans outlined by Jerry Caulfield, the owner and developer of the project.

The Westlake development will include a three-story office building.

Builder Endows College

Marrick Homes of Calvert County has established a $100,000 endowment to enhance the College of Southern Maryland's trades programs and provide scholarships for students in industrial training.

In announcing the gift, College of Southern Maryland Foundation Chairman Evelyn Hungerford praised Marrick Homes' commitment to the college as "exemplary."

"They are active and generous in supporting the community, especially in the area of higher education, and we are grateful," she said.

Marvin Oursler, president of Marrick Homes, said his company shares the college's commitment to the local community. Rick Bailey, an owner of Marrick Homes, serves as vice chairman of the college's board of trustees.

The income generated from the $100,000 endowment will provide scholarships to students pursuing trades studies such as commercial truck driving, construction skills, heating and air conditioning, welding, catering and others. The funds also will provide instructional technology and other program enhancements.

In addition to the current gift, Marrick Homes has contributed more than $48,000 to the college over the past several years, supporting numerous projects. Marrick has been a builder of custom homes in Southern Maryland since 1984.

Convention Exposure

Although Maryland's delegates to the recent Republican National Convention hooted and hollered with the speakers addressing the crowds at Madison Square Garden in New York, the usually boisterous Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell of Calvert County stayed silent. This was not by choice. The House minority whip had blown out his vocal cords on the convention's first evening, jeering film director Michael Moore, who made a surprise appearance in the convention hall.

Apparently, his silence paid dividends. On the convention's final night, organizers tapped the delegate from Solomons to take one of the dozen seats on the main stage, directly behind President Bush. He shook hands with the president and got more face time on national television than he ever could have hoped for. So successful was his silence that his fellow delegates left New York wondering whether they'll ever hear from O'Donnell again.

DNR Seeks Volunteers

The state Department of Natural Resources put out a call this week seeking volunteers in Southern Maryland for the program Teaching Environmental Awareness in Maryland.

A statement from the agency said, "Prospective volunteers should be outgoing with a strong desire to protect the [Chesapeake] Bay." They also must be high school graduates, provide their own transportation to training and classroom presentations, and be available during school hours. No teaching experience is necessary.

Each volunteer must participate in an all-day workshop about Maryland streams, either Saturday at Patapsco Valley State Park in Howard County or Wednesday at Cedarville State Forest in Charles County. Additional training opportunities will be offered next month at other locations around the state.

The TEAM volunteer educator program was created in 1998 to provide classroom presentations about the Chesapeake Bay and other environmental issues. More detailed information about the program is available at www.dnr.maryland.gov/education/teamdnr or by contacting Matt Chasse at mchasse@dnr.state.md.us or 410-260-8828.

Staff writer Matthew Mosk contributed to this report.