Frederick County is Maryland’s largest county, 664 square miles. Its population of 199,369 in 2000, is expected to grow to 281,710 by the year 2020. It is Maryland’s largest dairy producer, providing one-third of the state’s milk production. Frederick County has several outstanding parcels of established open space that provide a magnificent framework for a network of greenways including Cunningham Falls State Park, Gambrill State Park, Catoctin Mountain Park, the C&O Canal National Historical Park, Sugarloaf Mountain, Monocacy National Battlefield Park and the Monocacy Natural Resource Area, and the Frederick Municipal Forest. Each of these areas offers unique natural experiences and provides connections between communities and historic and recreational resources throughout the county.
Frederick County lies within two of the five physiographic regions located in Maryland. The eastern portion of the county is in the Piedmont region which is generally characterized by gently rolling terrain and slow-flowing streams. The Monocacy River, which has its headwaters in Pennsylvania, is a dominant feature of the Piedmont region. The balance of the county is located in the Blue Ridge region and is generally characterized by mountains including, the Catoctin Mountain and South Mountain ranges, heavily rolling terrain, and deep, restricted streams.
The county covers approximately 427,078 land acres. As of 1997, approximately 85% (361,803 acres) was in agricultural use, 65,528 acres were woodland, and 22,886 acres open space. The agricultural land is distributed throughout the county with prime farmland soils located in the Frederick Valley and the Middletown Valley. The woodlands are concentrated on Catoctin and South mountains and around Sugarloaf Mountain. Some of the acreage under the woodland category includes publicly-owned open space. Open space lands include publicly-owned parks and recreation areas and are concentrated along Catoctin Mountain and Sugarloaf Mountain. Frederick County has almost 35,000 acres of public and quasi-public parkland under local, state, and federal ownership. This acreage includes woodlands, watershed protection areas, and wildlife areas.
The Countywide Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 1998, identified a number of policies related to greenways and the designation of specific corridors in the county. In 1999, the county adopted its first Bikeways and Trails Plan, which identifies a network of on-street bikeways and off-street trail corridors. This plan did not specify passive or ecological greenways.
1) Appalachian Trail / South Mountain Greenways
The Appalachian Trail is an existing multi-state pathway and trail stretching from Maine to Georgia. In Maryland, the trail runs along the South Mountain ridge line in Frederick and Washington counties. About 40% of Maryland’s portion of the Appalachian Trail lies in Frederick County.
In Maryland, the trail begins in Washington County at Pen Mar Park then moves south through South Mountain State Park along the border of Frederick and Washington counties, weaving back and forth between the two jurisdictions, until it reaches the C&O Canal. Most of the trail corridor is in public ownership and managed by DNR with the help of volunteers from local trail clubs. (The Central Maryland Heritage League is interested in trying to acquire land in the South Mountain Battlefield area.)
2) C&O Canal National Historical Park
The C&O Canal National Historical Park includes the 185-mile long towpath that runs between Cumberland, Maryland and Georgetown in Washington, D.C. Approximately 16 miles of the path runs through Frederick County along the Potomac River. The towpath is suitable for hiking, jogging, and biking. The Appalachian Trail crosses the towpath at the state line near Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.
3) Catoctin Mountain Greenways and Catoctin Trail
The Catoctin Mountain Greenways encompasses the northern portion of Catoctin Mountain. This protected natural area consists of over 18,000 acres of publicly-owned land. The greenways includes Catoctin Mountain Park (federal), Cunningham Falls State Park (which connects to the town of Thurmont), Frederick Municipal Forest, and Gambrill State Park.
The Catoctin Trail is a natural surface trail extending from Gambrill State Park north approximately 35 miles to the northwest corner of Catoctin Mountain Park. The trail also traverses the Frederick City Municipal Forest and Cunningham Falls State Park. Its entire length is within publicly-owned property. This trail accommodates hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers.
At the northern end of the Catoctin Trail there is a potential connection that could be made to the Appalachian Trail in Washington County. The extension would run through agricultural property and woodlands. At the southern end, the trail could link with the Hagerstown and Frederick Trolley Trail. This connection could follow an existing trail and would generally follow Hamburg Road and Yellow Springs Pike. This connection would provide off-street pedestrian access from Frederick to the mountains.
3a) Catoctin Creek Trail
The Catoctin Creek Trail is a potential natural surface trail that would follow along Catoctin Creek between the Potomac River and Myersville where it would then follow Middle Creek and ultimately connect to the Catoctin Trail. Also proposed is a branch, generally along the U.S. Rt. 40-A corridor, from this trail to the Appalachian Trail. With the exception of the areas around Middletown and Myersville all of the land along these corridors is in agricultural use. This trail would also provide access to the C&O Canal, to the county’s Catoctin Creek Park and to the Middletown and Myersville parks. There would also be connections between the Appalachian Trail and the Catoctin Trail.
4) Middletown Greenways
The Middletown Greenways is a proposed multi-use trail system and greenways around the town. The greenways would be a combination of stream valleys, public lands, and existing public road rights-of-way. This greenways is proposed along the Hollow Creek stream valley area from the proposed Glenbrook development north across U.S. Rt. 40-A, through the A.C. Jets property and west through the planned Foxfield development. Extensions to the greenways would include routes through Middletown Community Park and Middletown school complex along with Green Street. The western edge of the greenways would be provided through dedicated parkland in the North Point and Brookridge South subdivisions. The initial greenways proposal could be expanded to provide additional links as opportunities are presented through the development review process.
4a) Middletown - Myersville Trolley Trail
This is a potential 9.5-mile rails-to-trails project on a portion of the Hagerstown and Frederick (H&F) Railroad, which operated electric trolleys on this line from Frederick to Hagerstown. This line opened for trolley service in 1896 and use was discontinued in the 1930s and 1940s. The eastern portion of the corridor has been developed for mostly residential use. The portion of the corridor between Middletown and Myersville is currently in agricultural use.
A multi-use trail is proposed for this corridor that would be primarily for recreational use, though it could also serve as a transportation route into the west side of Frederick. Rather than following the old trolley alignment down Main Street in Middletown, the trail would connect with the Middletown Greenways which circles the town. Access would be provided to the county’s Middletown Park and to the Middletown school complex.
5) Monocacy Scenic River Greenways
The Monocacy Scenic River Greenways is a potential stream valley greenways along the 58-mile river that stretches from the Pennsylvania border south to the Potomac River. This corridor would provide a major spine through the center of the county providing linkages to the C&O Canal, Sugarloaf Mountain Park, Monocacy Natural Resource Management Area, and Buckeystown Community Park, with possible branches along tributaries that could connect to Carroll Creek Park in downtown Frederick and Ballenger Creek Park just outside Frederick. A multi-use trail is proposed only for the southern portion of the greenways from Glade Creek to the Potomac, a distance of 25 miles.
The Monocacy River is the largest Maryland tributary of the Potomac. Since the late 1940s, planning efforts have been underway to protect the river from pollution and erosion and to preserve the scenic landscape within the river basin. In 1990, the Monocacy Scenic River Study and Management Plan was completed by the Monocacy Scenic River Advisory Board. A follow-up plan was completed in 1997 which addressed access issues for recreational uses on the river. The Monocacy River Greenways Study was prepared in 1994 and addressed riparian protection, conservation, and recreational opportunities. The study recommended that the northern portion of the river above Glade Creek be maintained as a passive, ecological greenways. The southern portion was recommended for active recreational development with a multi-use trail connecting to the Potomac River.
5a) Monocacy River Water Trail
In 1997, the Monocacy Scenic River Advisory Board, in partnership with Frederick County and the Maryland DNR, developed the Monocacy Scenic River Access Plan. The plan lists recommendations and implementation strategies to enhance access to the Monocacy for recreational activities. The Monocacy River Water Trail is a proposed route along the Monocacy River which encompasses a string of existing access points between Creagerstown Park to the north, down to the C&O Canal and the Potomac River to the south.
The type of access varies significantly from site to site. Some sites have unimproved river access while others have concrete ramps and parking facilities. Existing access sites include: Creagerstown Park, Pinecliff Park, Buckystown Park, Park Mills Bridge, the Monocacy Natural Resources Management Area, and the C&O Canal National Historical Park.
5b) H&F Trolley Trail
The trolley trail is a partially-established multi-use greenways trail that would run approximately 14 miles from Thurmont to Frederick. The trail would follow the alignment of the Hagerstown and Frederick (H&F) Railroad, which operated electric trolleys on the line from 1908 to 1953. The right-of-way does not follow any linear features such as streams. The corridor crosses through agricultural land and rural residential areas. The right-of-way is approximately 30-35 feet in width and still accommodates electric utility lines.
The first phase of the trail, between East Main Street and Water Street, was constructed by the town of Thurmont and opened in 1998. The trail will connect Thurmont, Lewistown, and Frederick when complete. Destinations along the corridor include Cunningham Falls State Park and the Catoctin Furnace, the Utica covered bridge, Catoctin Zoo, and the Yellow Springs and Lewistown elementary schools. The H&F Trolley Trail could connect with the Carroll Creek Trail which would provide a link to the Monocacy River. Just north of Frederick the trail could link with the Tuscarora Creek trail corridor which would also provide access to the Monocacy River.
5c) Ballenger Creek Trail
A potential multi-use greenways trail would run for about four miles along Ballenger Creek and provide a connection between the county’s Ballenger Creek Park and the Monocacy River. The entire corridor is within the Ballenger Creek growth area which includes residential development between Ballenger Creek Pike, New Design Road, and the Monocacy River. Portions of the floodplain adjacent to the existing residential development have been set aside as open space under the respective homeowner associations. The trail would be located within the 100-year floodplain of the creek which is mostly cleared with trees along the creek banks.
The trail could also serve as an alternative transportation route between residential areas on the west end of the corridor and businesses on the east end, and along the Rt. 85 corridor. Access from the residential areas to the proposed Central County High School, which will be located along Ballenger Creek Pike, may also be accommodated by the trail.
5d) Carroll Creek Trail
The Carroll Creek Trail is a potential multi-use greenways trail that would be located along Carroll Creek for its entire length. The trail would be 4.5 miles long and run from Rocky Springs Road to the Monocacy River. Most of the corridor is already developed with residential and commercial uses. The downtown portion of the corridor is currently undergoing redevelopment as a result of the flood control project which has opened the land immediately adjacent to the creek. This trail could serve both recreational and transportation purposes. Access to downtown Frederick would be especially useful to help reduce the need for automobile parking. This corridor would also provide the only off-street trail crossing of Rt. 15. To the west, this trail could tie in with the H&F Trolley Trail which continues north to Thurmont.
5e) Tuscarora Creek Trail
The Tuscarora Creek Trail is a potential multi-use greenways trail that would run 4.5 miles from Yellow Spring Pike to the Monocacy River along Little Tuscarora Creek. Most of this corridor is under residential development within Frederick. Some of the floodplain along the creek has been dedicated to the city for public park land.
5f) Sugarloaf - Little Bennett Trail
The Sugarloaf - Little Bennett Trail is a potential natural surface greenways trail that would span 5.5 miles between Little Bennett Regional Park and the Monocacy River. The eastern portion of this trail would follow Little Bennett Creek from Montgomery County’s Little Bennett Regional Park east of Hyattstown to Sugarloaf Mountain. The middle section on the Stronghold property would follow existing trails around Sugarloaf Mountain. The western section could either follow Furnace Branch or an old railroad alignment that was used during the construction of the C&O Canal. Most of the corridor is under either public ownership or within the Sugarloaf Mountain property which is protected under private non-profit ownership.
This natural surface, recreational trail would be consistent with the existing trails on Sugarloaf Mountain which can only be used by hikers and equestrians, with some trails open to mountain biking. The natural character of Sugarloaf Mountain and the Monocacy Natural Resource Area is more in keeping with having a natural surface which requires minimal disturbance of the terrain and vegetation.
5g) Bush Creek Trail
The Bush Creek Trail is a proposed 13-mile long, natural surface trail from the Monocacy River to the Montgomery County line. The trail would follow along the Bush Creek corridor and the CSX railroad tracks for most of its length. From Bartholows Road east, the trail would divert from Bush Creek to the southeast towards the headwaters of the Patuxent River. Montgomery County has identified a proposed trail along the Patuxent River.
This trail would serve recreational users only. As a natural surface trail, it would accommodate primarily hikers/walkers and equestrians. The western half of the corridor is primarily in agricultural use while the eastern portion is bounded by low density residential development.
5h) Linganore Creek Trail
The Linganore Creek Trail is a proposed 17-mile long, natural surface trail. This trail would follow Linganore Creek from the Monocacy River following the north fork of Linganore Creek and Weldon Creek to the Carroll County line. The western portion of the corridor runs through the Lake Linganore community which is the primary growth area for the New Market region. The eastern portion of the corridor is agricultural. This trail would serve primarily recreational needs and would be incorporated into the existing trail system around Lake Linganore to provide a connection with the Monocacy River.
6) I-270 Transitway
The I-270 transitway is proposed to accommodate either a light rail system or a busway between Frederick and the Shady Grove Metro station. A multi-use trail is proposed to be located within the right-of-way of the transitway. The trail would serve recreational uses with connections to the Monocacy Greenways and the Little Bennett Trail. This corridor would also serve transportation uses by providing access between growth areas in Urbana and Frederick.
7) Rock Creek Trail
The Rock Creek Trail is a planned multi-use greenways trail that spans two miles between Stonegate Park and Rt. 15. Portions of the trail exist between Bel Aire Lane and Baughmans Lane. The entire trail corridor is located within the 100-year floodplain of Rock Creek and runs through medium and high density residential areas as well as some commercial areas including Fredericktowne Mall. The corridor is almost entirely developed. Frederick has applied for funding to construct missing sections of the trail and to upgrade the existing trails. The trail would provide access to three parks along the corridor and could connect with the proposed Carroll Creek Trail just west of Rt. 15, which would provide access to Baker Park and downtown Frederick.
8) B&O Trail
The B&O Trail is a potential rail-to-trail conversion for a one-mile portion of the original B&O railroad line which was extended to Mt. Airy around 1830. The railroad was eventually relocated farther south when the tunnel was constructed. The right-of-way is currently under private ownership, though the town is likely to get some portions dedicated as the adjoining properties develop.
This trail would be used primarily for recreation though it would also provide alternative transportation opportunities within the town. At the eastern side of Mt. Airy the trail would connect with Watkins Regional Park. To the east, the trail could connect with the Patapsco River Greenways along the Carroll County and Howard County line.
9) Emmitsburg Greenways and Trail
The 1998 Emmitsburg Comprehensive Plan identifies a greenways and trail which partially encircles the town. The greenways follows Toms Creek between Annandale Road and Flat Run and extends to the north along Flat Run to the Pennsylvania line. The comprehensive plan identifies additional trail connections along several small streams traversing the town.
This trail system would provide links with the on-street bikeways identified in this plan as well as bikeways identified in the town’s comprehensive plan along some of the local streets. Connections would be provided to the town’s community park, Emmitsburg Elementary School, the Mother Seton School, and Mount St. Mary’s College. These trails would primarily serve recreational uses in addition to serving transportation needs for those attending or working at the area schools, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Fire Academy.
10) Emmitsburg Rail Trail
The Emmitsburg Rail Trail is a potential rail-to-trail conversion along 6.5 miles of the inactive Emmitsburg Railroad, which operated from 1868 to 1940. This line provided a connection between the Western Maryland Railroad in Rocky Ridge and Emmitsburg using steam locomotives. This corridor is relatively flat with some rolling terrain. Most of the corridor is located in an agricultural area with some residential uses in Rocky Ridge. At the north end, the corridor runs through the grounds of the Federal Emergency Management Agency property and the Daughters of Charity property.
This trail would provide both recreation and transportation opportunities. Access would be provided to the Emmitsburg Community Park and to the Loys Station covered bridge just west of Rocky Ridge. The proximity to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Mount St. Mary’s College would encourage use of the trail for commuting.