harles County is located 18 miles south of Washington, D.C., and due to this proximity has experienced rapid residential and business growth in recent years. The county has adopted a stream valley protection program that restricts development in stream corridors.
he Gilbert Swamp Run is a proposed stream valley greenway located in the eastern portion of Charles County. The county currently operates Gilbert Run Park in the headwater region of Gilbert Swamp Run. Hiking, picnic areas, fishing and nature interpretation are all available to the public. Gilbert Swamp Run is a 15-mile long stream which is channelized for much of its length. A linear trail system adjacent to the stream is possible if maintenance of the channelization project becomes a county responsibility.
he Indian Head to White Plains Rail Trail is a potential trail corridor along an inactive rail corridor currently owned by the U.S. Naval Ordnance Station at Indian Head. Discussions on the trail potential have been held with the Navy and public officials. At present, the Navy wishes to maintain the option of utilizing the tracks for future rail needs. A rail-with-trail is an option.
he corridor runs from the Potomac River along a stretch of DNR’s Mattawoman Natural Environment Area, through neighborhoods and undeveloped areas to its terminus in White Plains at Rt. 301.
attawoman Creek is a proposed stream valley greenway. DNR currently owns three parcels (Cedarville State Forest, Mattawoman Natural Environment Area and Myrtle Grove Wildlife Management Area) totaling over 4,500 acres which border Mattawoman Creek. This figure includes 1,600 acres of land recently designated as state wildlands. The greenway would link these three properties, providing natural resource and water quality protection.
he remaining sections of the Mattawoman Creek stream valley corridor are in private ownership. A combination of easements, other voluntary landowner actions and Charles County’s stream valley protection program can be used to make the greenway connections. Public access to this natural corridor would be limited; however, a recreational trail along a nearby rail line is also a possibility. (See Indian Head Rail Trail above.)
anjemoy Creek is a partially established greenway targeted by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for the conservation of its unique natural habitat. TNC has established a 688-acre preserve in the upper reaches of Nanjemoy Creek that will soon be expanded by the addition of another 900 acres. The preserve protects the largest great blue heron rookery on the East Coast north of Florida. In addition to the rookery, Nanjemoy Creek is habitat for the federally listed Dwarf Wedge Mussel (Alasmidonta heterodon), Virginia wild ginger inhabits the uplands along with several trees unusual in coastal Maryland, such as overcup oak and basket oak. Although the preserve is not currently open to the public except by scheduled TNC field trips, there are plans to provide public access and hiking trails in parts of the preserve in the near future. The tidal portions of Nanjemoy Creek are accessible by kayak, canoe and small boat from nearby Friendship Landing, where there is also a one-mile shoreline trail.
he Patuxent Regional Greenway is a partially established regional greenway stretching along the Patuxent through seven Maryland counties (Howard, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Prince George’s Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s). DNR currently owns about 15,000 acres along the Patuxent River and is working with local officials to extend protection along the mainstem.
wo publicly owned properties in Charles County (Maxwell Hall and Indian Creek Wildlife Natural Resource Management Area) contribute to the regional Patuxent River Greenway. These parcels are currently undeveloped, although they may be used to provide public access to the river in the future.
he corridor linking Maxwell Hall and Indian Creek is not in public ownership. However, the buffer requirements under the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area law provide an important mechanism for establishing a natural greenway. Conservation easements may also be pursued by the Maryland Environmental Trust.
he Popes Creek Railroad is a proposed rail trail in the southwest portion of the county that would run adjacent to Popes Creek from the Potomac River to U.S. 301. A stone or ash surface, suitable for both biking and hiking, is envisioned. The trail would be approximately three miles long.
he Potomac River Greenway is a partially established, multi-jurisdictional and interstate greenway. Charles County contains a number of public park holdings that contribute to this multi-state greenway project. Piscataway National Park, Purse State Park, General Smallwood State Park and Ruth B. Swan County Park are all situated directly on the Potomac River. Chapel Point State Park and the county’s recently acquired Friendship Landing property lie in tidal tributaries. In addition, the federal government owns significant acreage at the U.S. Naval Ordnance Station in Indian Head.
he vast majority of land along the Charles County portion of the Potomac River is privately owned. Discussions are underway to establish protection of a corridor along a large portion of the county’s western peninsula.
he Washington, Potomac and Chesapeake Rail Trail is a proposed rail trail that would link Hughesville (Charles County) with Lexington Park (St. Mary’s County). The entire corridor is owned by St. Mary’s County (even the portion in Charles County), and both jurisdictions are considering its use as a trail.
ekiah Swamp is an existing natural greenway running the length of Charles County. Zekiah Swamp has been recognized by numerous authorities as one of the most significant ecological areas in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The Zekiah Swamp is part of the Wicomico River, which is one of the nine state-designated scenic rivers. Zekiah Swamp Run is a 21-mile braided stream which connects two state properties. Cedarville State Forest, situated along the Charles County-Prince George’s County border, contains the headwater region of Zekiah Swamp. The Zekiah Swamp Natural Environment Area in southern Charles County is located at the stream’s confluence with the Wicomico River. Private landholdings between these two parcels, while not available for public access, are largely undeveloped.
NR owns about 450 acres along Zekiah Swamp and has authority to purchase up to 5,000 acres. However, additional state acquisitions may not be necessary since county land use policy, wetlands regulations, and a strong conservation ethic among adjacent private landowners is currently providing adequate protection for this important resource.