With an estimated year 2000 population of 727,210, Baltimore County is the third most populous jurisdiction in the state of Maryland. The growth rate of just over five percent between 1990 and 2000 was slightly lower than that of the previous two decades. The growth rate is expected to decline, with a projected population growth of only about 3.1% between 2000 and 2010.
The decrease in population growth is largely a reflection of the county’s efforts to limit suburban sprawl and protect its valuable rural lands that are increasingly threatened by the demand for housing. In 1967, the county established an Urban-Rural Demarcation Line (URDL) designed to separate areas of more intensive development from more rural areas where development would be limited or discouraged. The bulk of the county’s recent growth has been focused in designated “Growth Areas” in which planning mechanisms and development regulations work together to ensure that the areas are attractive communities with ample open space interspersed with the planned development. The state’s recent “Smart Growth” initiatives are very similar in nature to the policies the county has initiated to allow growth to occur without suffering many of the adverse impacts that come hand-in-hand with uncontrolled growth.
With approximately 90% of the population situated within the urban portion of the county, there is a significant difference between the landscape within and outside of the URDL. The vast majority of the county’s 132,500 acres of forest and tree cover and 100,000 acres classified as agricultural land are located in the rural portion of the county. Vast agricultural preservation areas and resource preservation areas have been identified, with regulations in place that assist in limiting growth and development in these areas.
Both the rural and urban portions of Baltimore County’s 640 square miles of land offer a diversity of landscapes in 14 major watersheds whose waters eventually feed the Chesapeake Bay. The county’s more than 2,100 miles of non-tidal streams and rivers serve as the backbone of the county’s existing greenways system. The Baltimore County Master Plan, 1989-2000 designated a vast network of streams and rivers as greenways, formalizing the county’s ongoing efforts to attain and preserve linear landforms (especially along stream valleys) for recreational and environmental purposes. This important step paved the way for the county to acquire lands along its designated greenways through the development process.
Two other significant strides in the county’s greenways effort took place in 1999-2000. The first was the approval of the greenways-related recommendations within the recently completed Baltimore County Master Plan 2010. These recommendations, known as “actions” within the plan, included the delineation of additional stream-related greenways and the enacting of a classification system whereby all greenways were designated as either “recreational” or “environmental.” These greenways types were further defined within the master plan text, as follows:
Environmental greenways will remain predominantly natural and serve as open space and wildlife corridors, with little if any public access.
Recreational greenways are intended for public use and may include improved trails and other recreational amenities.
The second accomplishment, which was also a recommendation within the Master Plan was the formulation and approval of the county’s updated Local Open Space Manual, which included an expanded section which initiated further greenways-related requirements within the development process. These “greenways standards” include the mandatory dedication, by reservation or easement, of the limits of the greenways (the 100-year flood plain or wetland or forest buffer, whichever is greater) on any properties being subdivided, regardless of zoning. The manual also requires that sufficient access be provided to any greenways within properties being subdivided, for public access or emergency or maintenance access.
While the development process is the primary tool utilized by the county for attaining greenways, other greenways or parks, which serve as nodes along designated g reenways, are acquired in other ways. The most common of these acquisition methods is the in-fee purchase of such properties. In most recent cases, the county acquires a “link” within a greenways as a portion of a larger park acquisition which contains the greenways. This was the case in the purchase of the former Genstar property, to be known as Overlook Park, which includes a portion of Herring Run along its northeast boundary. The Northwest Regional Park site, in which a section of Locust Run is located, is another example of such an acquisition.
Because of the extensive nature of the county’s greenways system, both proposed and existing, it is not feasible to document all of the greenways efforts and accomplishments herein. As such, the following information summarizes some of the county’s primary and most successful greenways efforts.
1) Bengies Chase Greenways
The Bengies Chase Greenways is a proposed greenways and has not been formally adopted. The greenways is a major cooperative initiative between the county and state. Though not associated with a single stream, the greenways will instead traverse a series of publicly-owned lands, many of which have coastal sections. The greenways would run from Chase Elementary School Recreation Center, through the county’s Eastern Regional Park, Tidewater Village open space, and Dundee and Saltpeter Park, and on to the adjacent Gunpowder Falls State Park Hammerman Area, connecting to the Gunpowder Falls/Little Gunpowder Falls Greenways. This unique stretch of public land would include diverse recreational facilities/sites including active sports facilities, a nature center and interpretive facilities at Dundee-Saltpeter, a beach, picnic areas, and boating facilities at the Hammerman Area. Many of these amenities would be connected by proposed trails.
2) Cooper Branch & Number Nine Trolley Line Trail
This greenways, which runs from Catonsville to Oella, is centered upon the former number nine trolley line which parallels Cooper Branch. This trail is paved and features a section of boardwalk. It is about a mile and a half in length, with parking lots (including a separate handicapped accessible parking area on Westchester Avenue) available at its west end opposite Ellicott City. The county’s Banneker Historical Park and Museum is also situated along the greenways, with a trail connection to the trolley line trail.
3) Gunpowder Falls, Little
These greenways combined are the most extensively publicly-owned greenways in Baltimore County. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is the primary property owner, with over 14,000 acres of land protected within the state park system. These state parklands are interspersed throughout the greenways, with a number of areas that include recreational facilities. Youth camps have been developed in the Hereford area. The park headquarters and the nearby Jericho covered bridge are located on the Little Gunpowder Falls, which forms the Baltimore County-Harford County line. A variety of recreational facilities, including a beach, picnic areas, and a marina, are provided at the Hammerman Area at the eastern end of the greenways. The extremely popular 19.7-mile Northern Central Rail Trail runs along a portion of the Gunpowder Falls, as well as the Little Falls and Beetree Run, all of which are county-designated recreational greenways. The city-owned lands around Loch Raven and Prettyboy reservoirs also contribute to this vast greenways.
4) Gwynns Falls Greenways
The Gwynns Falls Greenways includes the most extensive (in terms of number of sites and their wide geographical range) county-owned land holdings of any existing greenways in Baltimore County. Approximately 400 acres of parkland and open space are owned by the county along the Gwynns Falls, in addition to extensive areas protected by easements. Running from the Baltimore City/County line to the Glyndon area, this greenways serves as an extension of the city’s Gwynns Falls Greenways. Included in the county’s 400 acres of land along the greenways are such parks as Gwynn Oak Park, Villa Nova Park (which includes the paved Milford Mill trail which runs along the Gwynns Falls), Silver Creek Park, and Sudbrook Park. The county is currently in the process of negotiating an easement for an integral portion of the greenways that lies between Gwynn Oak Park and Villa Nova Park.
5) Jones Falls and Roland Run
This relatively short greenways runs north from the Baltimore County/Baltimore City line, paralleled part of the way by MTA light rail tracks. The centerpiece of the greenways is the Baltimore City-owned Lake Roland, which is surrounded by the city-owned and operated Robert E. Lee Park. This park is particularly popular with dog owners and features a trail that circles the lake. There are small county-owned holdings to the north and south of the park, and further north an approximately three-quarter mile stretch of Roland Run is protected within Baltimore County’s Essex Farm Park.
6) Minebank Run
This short greenways, which branches off from the Gunpowder Falls just south of Loch Raven Reservoir, is almost entirely under county ownership. A large portion is located within the scenic 350+ acre Cromwell Valley Park, owned cooperatively by the state of Maryland and Baltimore County. This park has an organic farm which hosts a variety of environmental programs and activities through the year and features a natural trail network. Farther west, the greenways borders the county’s Loch Raven High School Recreation Center and Cromwell Valley Elementary School Recreation Center.
7) Number Eight Trolley Line
An approximately one-third mile stretch of the former number eight trolley line between Edmondson Avenue and Frederick Road, whose right-of-way is still owned by the Mass Transit Administration, was recently improved as a trail. This project was initiated and completed as a volunteer effort by community members and organizations in cooperation with the Old Catonsville Neighborhood Association, and partial funding was provided by a grant from the county. Similar community-driven efforts are now underway to create a greenways trail along the former Catonsville Short Line, which runs from Mellor Avenue (adjacent to the old Catonsville Elementary School) to the Baltimore City/County line near Melbourne Road. Neither of these are formally adopted as greenways within the 2010 Master Plan, as the existing approved greenways system is stream valley-based. It is, however, likely that these trails will be added as greenways in concert with the Master Plan recommendation to expand the greenways system to include other linear areas aside from stream valleys.
8) Patapsco Regional Greenways and Locust Run
This extensive multi-county greenways forms the southwest border of Baltimore County and includes vast tracts of the state-owned Patapsco Valley State Park. A number of popular public use areas are located within the state park, including trails, picnic areas, and campgrounds. Over 10 miles of the greenways is formed by the Baltimore city-owned Liberty Reservoir, which is fed by the North Branch of the Patapsco River. Adjacent to where the Patapsco River crosses into Baltimore City is the county-owned Southwest Area Park, for which plans are being developed for the construction of a boat ramp providing access to the Patapsco River. Locust Run, another county-designated greenways, connects with Liberty Reservoir, and has sizeable public areas along its path. A portion of the stream runs along the south end of Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area, and passes through Baltimore County’s Northwest Regional Park site.
9) Red Run
Like the White Marsh Run Greenways, Red Run is located in one of the county’s designated growth areas, in this case Owings Mills. The acquisition of land along this greenways, as well as the attainment of greenways easements, has taken place almost exclusively through the county’s development process. This greenways is intended to be a major open space and recreation component of the growth area, with a number of areas in and connected to the greenways being explored as potential trails.
10) White Marsh Run
Located in Baltimore County’s Perry Hall/ White Marsh growth area, this greenways preserves the stream valley of White Marsh Run. The stream itself traverses a variety of land areas, from residential, to commercial, to industrial. To date, approximately 130 acres of land have been acquired along the greenways, entirely through the county’s development process. The state is currently conducting stream restoration along a portion of the greenways, and future plans call for trails for public use.