Caroline County is located in the eastern central part of the Eastern Shore. It is primarily rural and is characterized by relatively flat topography. Among the county’s most prominent physical features are Tuckahoe Creek and the Choptank River. These waterways form the western boundary of the county and are the only places containing steep slopes.
The county is steadily growing. In 1998 it had an estimated population of 29,490 and is projected to reach 32,150 by 2010. The county covers approximately 205,380 land acres. About 89% or 182,788 acres are zoned agricultural. As of 1999, Caroline County preserved 21,305 acres through the Maryland State Agricultural Land Preservation Program (MALPF), the second highest MALPF total in the state, behind Carroll County.
There is not much publicly owned land for habitat protection or recreation outside of Tuckahoe State Park, north of Hillsboro, and Idylwild Wildlife Management Area, outside of Federalsburg. The county would like to increase stream buffer areas and recreation areas. However, lack of funds precludes aggressive acquisition efforts. There have been ongoing discussions about opportunities to utilize the major named creeks and rivers to provide greenways connections to natural features and recreational sites in the county.
The current Caroline County Land Preservation and Recreation Master Plan projects the future creation of a greenways system but does not offer specific recommendations regarding their creation. Local officials project a very careful review of these opportunities in the future for inclusion in both the Recreation Master Plan and reference in the Caroline County Comprehensive Plan. The county utilizes programs such as Program Open Space, Transportation Enhancement Funds, Agricultural Land Preservation Program, Rural Legacy, Sensitive Areas and Critical Areas protection policies, and conservation easements to actively preserve and protect open space and habitat.
1) Denton Municipal Greenways
The Denton Municipal Greenways is a potential greenways that would connect existing public lands in the town of Denton to Martinak State Park. The greenways would begin with an eight-acre parcel along Franklin Street, acquired from the State Highway Administration. It would connect to Towers Park, along Rt. 404, and run through town to connect into Martinak State Park along the Choptank River.
2) Hillsboro Rail Trail
The Hillsboro Rail Trail is a potential trail along an inactive railroad spur between Hillsboro and Denton. This potential trail could connect Tuckahoe State Park to the proposed Denton Municipal Greenways and has the possibility of being extended through Delaware to Rehoboth Beach.
3) Marshyhope Creek Greenways
The Marshyhope Creek Greenways is an existing greenways corridor stretching from the Delaware line through the town of Federalsburg. The corridor includes the 3,000-acre Idylwild Wildlife Management Area owned and managed by DNR. Utilizing transportation enhancement funds, the corridor was extended northward with the purchase of a 300-acre former extraction site (Marshyhope ponds) and on the southern end by construction of a trail system along the waterfront in downtown Federalsburg. Site improvements including planting, recreation areas, and a pedestrian bridge across the creek were components of the Federalsburg project. The greenways has been further complemented by a project that has restored 28 acres of wetlands and riparian areas in the floodplain. The restoration effort should reestablish the floodplain and wetland functions that were lost when Marshyhope Creek was channelized in the 1960s.
Town officials are considering options for connecting this greenways to other natural and historic sites in the region. A bike route along roads connecting the towns of Easton, Preston, Federalsburg, and Denton is being considered.
4) Tuckahoe State Park
A portion of Tuckahoe Creek is protected on both sides by the 3,500-acre Tuckahoe State Park. The park offers camping, fishing, and boating. There is also an arboretum that includes three miles of pathways where nature lovers can learn about native species of trees and shrubs. Equestrians utilize this area and have expressed support for a connecting trail along the inactive railroad spur between Denton and Hillsboro. The park is almost equally split between Caroline and Queen Anne’s counties.
5) Easton-Clayton Rail Trail
The Easton-Clayton Rail Trail is a potential rail trail conversion project along the former Chesapeake Railroad right-of-way. The county is currently exploring a segment of the line that runs from Tuckahoe State Park to the town of Ridgely and from Ridgely to the town of Greensboro. Future expansion of the trail would follow the rail line north to Goldsboro.
The Easton-Clayton Rail Trail is also part of a larger regional trail vision for the Eastern Shore. In this regional vision, the trail would span the distance from the town of Easton in Talbot County, through Caroline County and continue northward into Delaware. If completed, this bi-state trail could become part of the planned East Coast Greenways.
6) Upper Choptank River Greenways
The Upper Choptank River Greenways is a potential greenways along the Choptank River that would connect the county’s Christian Park to the boat ramp in the town of Greensboro. The greenways could run from the park along the river or possibly along the utility corridor in that vicinity.
6a) Choptank River Water Trail
The Choptank River Water Trail is a potential water trail route along the upper reaches of the Choptank River in Caroline County. Development of this route is part of a larger regional effort to develop water trails along the Choptank and Tuckahoe Rivers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.