Allegany County is characterized by steep slopes and mountainous terrain. It has vast amounts of forestland and is exempted from the Forest Conservation Act. Over 50% of the countyís land area has slopes greater than 25%. The majority of all urban development and agricultural land uses have occurred on only 20% of the total county land area. In 1998, the county had an estimated population of 71,333; this is projected to reach 72,650 by 2010, a slight increase.
The county covers approximately 268,720 land acres. Twenty-eight percent (28%) or 75,242 acres are zoned agricultural. Scattered agricultural lands are located in the west, central, and northeast portions of the county. State parks, forests, and wildlife management areas assist in the preservation of 57,000 acres. The majority of these areas are located in the southern and eastern portions of the county outside of the urbanized areas. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, located on 3,000 acres within the picturesque Potomac River Greenways, has its terminus in Allegany County.
The countyís current Comprehensive Plan strongly supports the development of greenways and trails. The county uses many programs to assist in developing, financing and protecting greenways: Program Open Space, Transportation Enhancement Fund, Agricultural Land Preservation Program, Sensitive Areas Protection Program and Conservation Easements. Land-use regulations and the subdivision review process are also used to protect greenways.
The Local Land Preservation and Recreation Plan is devoted to neighborhood, community, and regional parks in municipalities and various suburban communities and is supported through the use of Program Open Space funds. Another strategy that the county uses to develop greenways is implementation of the County Open Space Plan. This plan contains the countyís trail plan, which suggests the creation of a network of trails that would connect existing open space sites in state and federal parks and forests by using abandoned rail lines, power lines, greenways and other types of right-of-way. By completing a network of trails that connect urban areas to areas of open space, residents could take advantage of the valuable recreational resources, and the countyís tourism and hospitality industries could be further developed.
1) Allegheny Highlands Trail
The planned Allegheny Highlands Trail of Maryland (AHTM) follows the route of the former Western Maryland Railroad for 22 miles from Cumberland, Maryland to the Pennsylvania line. The AHTM is part of a regional alliance that will complete and connect seven trail segments, forming a trail between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cumberland, Maryland. In Maryland, the Allegheny Highlands Trail will connect to the 180-mile C&O Canal towpath, connecting trail users to the nationís capital.
Much progress has been made on the Maryland portion of the Allegheny Highlands Trail. Design and engineering are underway for the segments between Frostburg and Cumberland. Construction should begin in 2000. This segment will be a rail-with-trail. The trail will be built alongside the existing Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Trail supporters are working hard to resolve issues with the five-mile section north of Frostburg and hope to complete the entire trail by the end of 2002.
2) C&O Canal National Historical Park
The C&O Canal National Historical Park is an existing 184-mile, unpaved trail along the former Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath. The trail runs along the Potomac River between Cumberland, Maryland and Georgetown in Washington, D.C. In Cumberland, the trail ends at the Western Maryland Railroad Station, which now serves as a visitor center. The path is owned and maintained by the National Park Service and is utilized by hikers, bikers, and joggers. This trail will eventually be connected to the Allegheny Highlands Trail, providing a trail connection all the way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The C&O Canal terminus in Cumberland is being enhanced as part of the Canal Place Project. Improvements to the visitor center, restoration and rewatering of a portion of the canal, creation of additional open space, and a network of pathways are included in this effort.
3) Danís Mountain
Danís Mountain is an existing protected area consisting of a 480-acre state park and an 8,700-acre wildlife management area. The state park offers fishing, swimming in an olympic-size pool, and picnic areas. There is potential for a connecting link between the wildlife management area and the Big Savage hiking trail in Garrett County.
4) Georgeís Creek Greenways
There is a potential rails-to-trails opportunity along a little-used CSX line (former C&P corridor) that stretches 18 miles between the Potomac River and Frostburg. Preliminary discussions have been held among a number of public and private sector partners on the potential for this corridor as a trail. If developed, the trailís northern end would connect to the Allegheny Highlands Trail in Frostburg. To the south, the corridor could be extended into West Virginia along the former Western Maryland line and connected to trail systems in Canaan Valley. Early concepts for this corridor explore the potential to attract visitors from Washington, D.C. by developing a rail transport and biking excursion package.
The town of Westernport has added to the Georgeís Creek Greenways by creating a small greenways along Wills Creek. The town, working in conjunction with the State Highway Administration and other government agencies, purchased lands in the floodplain that were routinely damaged by flood waters and transformed the area into a park and walking trail.
5) Green Ridge
Green Ridge is an existing greenways consisting of the Green Ridge State Forest (approximately 40,000 acres), Belle Grove Wildlife Management Area (approximately 350 acres) and Billmeyer Wildlife Management Area (approximately 700 acres). This greenways has a potential interstate connection to Buchanan State Forest in Pennsylvania. A marked hiking trail that connects to the C&O Canal near Town Creek extends through Green Ridge State Forest to the Pennsylvania border.
6) Potomac River Greenways
The Potomac River Greenways is a partially protected greenways that primarily consists of the 184-mile C&O Canal National Historical Park. Possible extensions at both ends of the trail are being considered. In Allegany County, the greenways could be extended along the North Branch of the Potomac River, possibly utilizing inactive portions of the former Western Maryland Railway Corridor, connecting to protected open space in Garrett County and continuing on to the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. This portion of the rail corridor is currently owned by the National Park Service. A new boat ramp at the county fairgrounds provides access to the river.
7) Rocky Gap Greenways
The Rocky Gap Greenways is an existing trail within a 3,000-acre state park. The trail has the potential to be extended in Pennsylvania along the ridgetop of Evitts Mountain to connect with the existing trail in Buchanan State Forest. In addition to hiking trails, Rocky Gap State Park offers campsites, picnic areas, and play areas. This state park is an outstanding regional resort. There is a 243-acre lake, three swimming beaches, and boat rentals. A modern lodge and conference center have been added along with a signature golf course.
8) Western Maryland Rail Trail
The Western Maryland Rail Trail is an inactive rail corridor currently owned by the National Park Service with long-range potential for conversion to a trail. The corridor stretches from Tonoloway west to Spring Gap, just east of Cumberland. This corridor provides a critical buffer to the Potomac River. It is an elevated path that is not subject to the flooding that occurs on the adjacent C&O Canal towpath.