Cecil County is characterized by rolling topography that transitions into the Pennsylvania Piedmont to the north and the Atlantic Coastal Plain to the south and to the east. Among the county’s most prominent physical features are the granite cliffs of Port Deposit rising steeply from the Susquehanna River. In 1998, the population was 82,522; it is projected to reach 94,600 by 2010. The county’s growth areas are concentrated around the towns located along the U.S. Rt. 40/I-95 corridor.
The county covers approximately 222,940 land acres. Fifty-six percent (56%) or 161,522 acres are zoned agricultural. Agricultural lands dominate most of the northern and southern portions of the county. Four hundred sixty-four farms averaging 185 acres each comprise about 38.5% of Cecil County’s total land acres. Just under 15,000 acres are enrolled in agricultural districts through the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation. Easements have been sold on about 8,700 acres. The Maryland Environmental Trust holds conservation easements on about 2,700 acres, and an additional 600 acres are protected by easements held by other land trusts such as the Cecil Land Trust and the Natural Lands Trust.
The county’s Comprehensive Plan identifies eight potential greenways and four Class II bikeways. The Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways is the primary greenways in the county. However, there is ongoing discussion about the possibility for several others that could link parks, trails, and greenways in Pennsylvania and Delaware, with corridor extensions into and through parts of northern Cecil County and along the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Elk Neck State Park, Elk Neck State Forest, and the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area provide the three largest blocks of publicly owned land in the county.
The planned East-Coast Greenways could eventually be routed through Cecil County if appropriate trail corridors and bike routes are established in the future in Cecil, Harford, and Baltimore counties. A pedestrian bridge across the Susquehanna River would also have to be accomplished to accommocate this route. The Wilmington Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (WILMAPCO) is currently evaluating potential routes. The Maryland East Coast Greenways Committee has identified an interim route that straddles the Chesapeake Bay. (See Appendix B.) The ideal corridor would be an off-road trail in the vicinity of the I-95 corridor through north eastern Cecil County.
1) Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Greenways
The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Greenways is a planned greenways linking Welch Point Managed Hunting Area, Elk Forest Wildlife Management Area, Canal National Wildlife Refuge, and Bethel Managed Hunting Area. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers currently holds ownership to substantial tracts of land along the canal. There are existing trails within its land holdings, and the service road paralleling the canal is being considered for a bike path to link various communities along the canal.
2) Elk Creek Greenways
The Elk Creek Greenways is a potential greenways between Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area and the town of Elkton’s John Stanley Meadow Park. While most of the land along the corridor is privately owned, routes other than alongside the Big Elk Creek offer strong potential. Through acquisition, easements and dedication to the county during development, a linkage could be obtained.
3) Elk Neck Peninsula Greenways
The Elk Neck Peninsula Greenways is a planned greenways that would offer an excellent opportunity for a true recreational passageway from Elk Neck State Forest through smaller state holdings, possibly utilizing a portion of the Rodney Scott Boy Scout Camp, and ending at Elk Neck State Park. A local trail committee has been working with property owners and public officials to design and develop a narrow, natural surfaced pathway that would eventually stretch between the town of North East and Elk Neck State Park. This greenways is almost entirely forested and would connect 6,000 acres of publicly owned land. Trails utilized by private clubs currently exist in this area.
4) Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways>
The core of the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways is a partially established greenways along the floodplain of the Susquehanna River below the Conowingo Dam. The corridor affords the opportunity to link the outstanding natural, historic, and recreational resources of the area. The proposed corridor generally follows both banks of the river from the Conowingo Dam to the Chesapeake Bay and incorporates a series of looping trails in upland and urban areas. Additionally, the potential exists for expansion of the trail system up to the Mason-Dixon line to connect with greenways efforts in Pennsylvania.
The west bank of the river is in Harford County and includes the city of Havre de Grace and the bulk of Susquehanna State Park. The east bank of the river is in Cecil County and includes the towns of Perryville and Port Deposit. Completed trail segments include a section of trail along a PECO Energy-owned right-of-way from the dam to the state park, upland trails in the park, the waterfront promenade in Havre de Grace, and the Tomes Landing Walkway.
Two parcels of open space were purchased in 1995 in Port Deposit that provide a connection between an existing town park and the walkway at Tomes Landing. Trail segments in Perryville are currently under construction, and a pedestrian bridge across the river connecting the towns of Perryville and Havre de Grace is being explored. Future expansion of the greenways is being directed by a local non-profit organization, the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways, Inc.
5) Northeast Creek Greenways
The Northeast Creek Greenways is a potential greenways along Northeast Creek. The town of North East is planning a trail system to link the community park to the downtown business district and continue north along the creek. Establishment of this greenways would protect water quality, wildlife, and fish spawning sites in Northeast Creek. The greenways would include the historic covered bridge at Gilpin’s Falls and connect to an established trail at Cecil Community College. Plans for this trail will include acquisition and easements through targeted development areas.
6) Octoraro Creek
The Octoraro Creek is a potential greenways stretching from the Susquehanna River north to the Pennsylvania line. The majority (over 200 acres) of the Octoraro Creek stream valley is currently owned by the Chester County Water Authority. The Authority owns an 11-mile corridor along the creek in Maryland, including a significant buffer (approximately 40 feet) on either side. The corridor is mostly wooded. Additional land along the corridor is also protected in Pennsylvania by the water authority. This corridor connects to the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways.
7) Octoraro Rail Trail
The Octoraro Rail Trail is a potential trail along an inactive rail corridor that traverses a very scenic part of Cecil County. The county owns approximately five miles of the corridor from the Mason-Dixon line to just south of Colora and plans to acquire more through the subdivision process. A spur to the former Bainbridge site, which has been annexed by the town of Port Deposit and will eventually be redeveloped, could also be developed as a trail connection. If developed, this trail would connect the town of Rising Sun to the trail system associated with the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways.
8) Principio Creek Greenways
The Principio Creek Greenways is a potential wildlife corridor and passive greenways along Principio Creek. Portions of the creek have been identified as a Class III trout stream. Continued protection of a minimum 300-foot wooded buffer would maintain wildlife habitat and water quality. Acquisition during development is feasible as a large portion of the basin is under single, private ownership. An agreement will be necessary to protect this area prior to development. This corridor could connect to the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways.
9) Tri-State Greenways
The Tri-State Greenways is a potential wildlife corridor along the Mason-Dixon line that would connect three large parcels of publicly owned land in three states: Maryland’s Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area (5,622 acres), Delaware’s Walter Carpenter State Park (707 acres), and Pennsylvania’s White Clay Creek Preserve (1,251 acres). Possible recreation corridors are also being considered.
Future connections in Delaware to Middle Run Natural Area and the Delaware Greenways system along Delaware Bay offer high potential use. A westward connection down Rt. 273 in Cecil County currently identified as a Maryland Scenic Route, could link this greenways to the Octoraro Creek and Susquehanna River Greenways.