Garrett County forms the northwestern edge of Maryland and is characterized by steep, mountainous ridges and stream valleys. The county covers approximately 420,950 land acres. About 91% or 383,065 acres are assessed as agricultural lands (because the county does not have county-wide zoning). Garrett County has more acres of publicly owned land than any other county in the state. State parks, forests, and wildlife management areas assist in the preservation of approximately 20% of the total acreage. It is one of two counties in the state that has so much protected forestland that is has been exempted from the Forest Conservation Act. Garrett County is also home to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland’s largest freshwater lake and only alpine ski resort.
Garrett County is experiencing a slight increase in population. In 1998, it had an estimated population of 29,238 and is projected to reach 30,900 by 2010. Garrett County’s primary interest in greenways is to find ways to utilize and connect the vast amount of land already protected to enhance tourism and outdoor recreation activities. The county’s proposed greenways system would establish a countywide network of trails and greenways connecting urban areas to recreation, historic, and scenic sites.
The current County Comprehensive Plan strongly supports the development of greenways and trails that would tie existing urban areas together. The Maryland State Highway Administration has constructed and striped bicycle/pedestrian lanes on 198.5 miles of state road shoulders in Garrett County. These shoulders range in width from less than four feet to more than eight feet.
The county uses many programs to assist in developing, financing, and protecting greenways: Program Open Space, Transportation Enhancement Funds, Special Water Resource Areas, Rural Resource Areas, Agricultural Land Preservation Program, Sensitive Areas Protection Program, and conservation easements.
The Local Land Preservation and Recreation Plan is devoted to expanding parks and recreational opportunities in municipalities and various suburban communities. Another tool that the county uses to assist in the development of greenways is the County Transportation Plan. This plan contains the county’s Greenways Plan which suggests creating a network of trails that would connect existing open space in state and federal parks and forests through the utilization of inactive rail lines, greenways, and other types of rights-of-way. By completing a network of trails that connects urban areas to areas of open space and recreation, a valuable resource would be created for residents, along with opportunites for Garrett County to develop tourism and hospitality industries.
1) Deep Creek Lake State Park / Meadow Mountain
Deep Creek Lake State Park is situated along the banks of Maryland’s largest freshwater lake. The park has an extensive trail system, which includes routes along Meadow Mountain. Trail difficulties range from moderate to difficult. There is also walking access along the shoreline of the lake.
2) Garrett State Forest Greenways
The Garrett State Forest Greenways is an existing greenways along the western border of Garrett County. This greenways includes Garrett State Forest, Swallow Falls State Park, and Herrington Manor State Park. The parks offer a variety of recreational opportunities including swimming, boating, hiking, cross-country skiing, camping, and fishing.
The Garrett County Trail Guide, which was prepared by the Western Maryland Trails Committee in partnership with DNR, provides more detailed information on the following trail systems in the Garrett State Forest Greenways. These include: 9 miles of trails in the Garrett trail system, 2.7 miles of trails in the Piney Mountain trail system, 10 miles of trails in Herrington Manor State Park, and 1.5 miles in Swallow Falls State Park.
3) Potomac River Greenways
The Potomac River Greenways is a proposed greenways that would include the floodplain corridor along the northern bank of the Potomac River stretching from the border with Allegany County to the large land parcel owned by the Army Corps of Engineers around Jennings Randolph Lake. Following a sizeable gap around the Kitzmiller area, the greenways picks up again with protected land in Potomac River State Forest including 10.5 miles of trails. This corridor would expand the existing 180-mile greenways corridor provided by the C&O Canal National Historical Park that currently ends in Cumberland (Allegany County). There is also potential to develop a recreational water trail element to the Potomac River Greenways.
4) Savage River Greenways
The Savage River Greenways is an existing greenways that lies in the eastern mid-portion of the county. Portions of the Potomac and Savage River state forests, along with Big Run State Park, New Germany State Park, and Finzel Swamp Preserve all connect to form a protected land mass of about 50,000 acres.
The state parks offer camping facilities and other recreational activities in addition to a series of hiking trails, cross-country skiing trails, and snowmobile trails. The trail systems found in Savage River State Forest include: 11 miles of trails in the Meadow Mountain trail system, 7.5 miles in the Margroff Plantation trail system, 8 miles in the Negro Mountain trail system, 6.4 miles in the Monroe Run trail system, 6 miles in the New Germany trail system, 17 miles in the Savage Mountain trail system, and 6 miles in the Poplar Lick trail system. More detail on all these systems can be found in the Garrett County Trail Guide.
5) Swallow Falls Greenways
The Swallow Falls State Park has a large existing trail system. The system includes the 5.5 mile-long Swallow Falls/Herrington Manor Trail which is mostly used for hiking, cross-country skiing, and biking. Horseback riding is not allowed. The Snaggy Mountain Road is approximately four miles long and is utilized as a multi-use trail.
6) Youghiogheny Scenic and Wild River
The Youghiogheny Scenic and Wild River is a partially established greenways corridor along the Youghiogheny River. DNR owns 3,012 acres of land along the river. The Youghiogheny is one of nine rivers recognized in the Maryland Scenic and Wild Rivers Act (1972 amendment) as scenic. It is the only state river also classified as “wild” - a distinction that applies to the river segment flowing from Miller’s Run to the southern corporate limits of Friendsville. According to a national study, the Youghiogheny possesses “substantial natural values, especially outstanding whitewater, the impressive scenic beauty of narrow, heavily forested gorges, and excellent trout fisheries. The wild segment is noted for its generally inaccessible, primitive character.” There is also potential for developing a land-based trail from the Youghiogheny to Friendsville.