Harford County is divided by the fall line, which lies roughly along I-95, into two physiographic regions. The Coastal Plain lies along the Chesapeake Bay, and the Piedmont region lies north and west above the fall line. The county’s landscapes offer a variety of vistas from the rolling hills of the Piedmont to the more gently sloped Coastal Plain. Population has grown rapidly in Harford County over the past decade and the trend is expected to continue in the future. In 2000, the population was approximately 226,565 and is projected to reach 249,350 by 2010. Population growth is increasing mostly in the county’s “Development Envelope” which runs along I-95 and Rt. 24, and was designed to concentrate future development. This area includes the three municipalities of Aberdeen, Bel Air, and Havre de Grace. By the year 2005, 70% of the population will be located within this area.
Harford County covers approximately 281,600 land acres. Sixty-two percent (62%) or 173,900 acres are zoned agricultural. Agricultural land is scattered throughout the central and upper portions of the county and is only interrupted by a portion of the development envelope. The county’s Department of Parks and Recreation owns 3,802 acres. The county has an aggressive Purchase of Development Rights Program, which saved 12,965 acres in its first four years of operation. The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program has preserved 10,022 acres, another 2,532 acres are protected under Maryland Environmental Trust easements, and about 170 acres are held in private easements. Through all types of easements, over 25,000 acres have been preserved in the county.
The protection and establishment of greenways is often mentioned in the county’s 1998 Land Preservation and Recreation Plan. One of the action steps of the plan states, “Work with various land trusts, citizen groups, private entities, the Department of Planning and Zoning and the Rural Legacy Program to help protect greenways and forested areas through various preservation programs, donations, easements or purchase.”
The Environmental Land Preservation Commission has been established by the county to assist in taking actions to preserve environmentally sensitive land, some of which include greenways. Several volunteer organizations have been established to help the Department of Parks and Recreation promote preservation of environmentally sensitive areas, acquisition of properties, and implementation of greenways concepts.
1) Bynum Run/Winters Run Loop
The Bynum Run/Winters Run Loop is a planned stream valley greenways in southwestern Harford County. This open space system is anticipated to provide a variety of environmental and recreational benefits, and some portions of the greenways may accommodate pathways and trails for hiking.
Several county sites have been acquired along or near these stream areas, and developers have also set aside local open space for passive use in these sensitive areas. The state owns over 250 acres in the Bush Declaration Natural Resources Management Area along Bynum Run. Trail construction within homeowner association land has begun, and long-range planning efforts are underway. Winters Run borders the western edge of the development envelope, and protection of this corridor would provide an important buffer.
2) Deer Creek Scenic River
The Deer Creek Scenic River is a planned and partially protected greenways in northern Harford County along one of Maryland’s designated scenic rivers. This stream valley provides a wildlife corridor and water quality benefits and links several parcels of publicly owned land, including Susquehanna State Park, Rocks State Park, Palmer State Park and the county-owned lands at Eden Mill, Jolly Acres Road, and Sandy Hook Road. The state and county parks already located along Deer Creek provide a variety of public access points to this corridor.
3) Little Gunpowder Falls
Little Gunpowder Falls is a partially established stream valley greenways along the western boundary of Harford County that could link the county to greenways in Baltimore County. A major portion of this area (almost 2,000 acres) is currently state-owned and managed as part of Gunpowder Falls State Park. A natural-surface trail exists along a portion of a former rail line. The trail can be accessed by a parking lot off Rt. 1, just south of Mountain Road (Rt. 152).
4) Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways
The Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways is a partially established trail system and greenways corridor that could ultimately provide a connection between the town of Havre de Grace, Susquehanna State Park and the Conowingo Dam as well as towns and natural areas on the shoreline in Cecil County. A two-mile section of trail was completed in 1995, utilizing a portion of a former rail line owned by PECO Energy, and additional upland segments were opened in 1999. Overall project coordination is now provided by a local non-profit group, the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways, Inc. The goal of the project is to protect open space along the river, develop a series of looping trails, stimulate tourism and compatible business opportunities in the towns, and encourage Smart Growth in the region. A pedestrian river crossing is being studied at various locations, including the abandoned piers between Havre de Grace and Perryville.
5) Ma and Pa Heritage Corridor
The first segment of the Ma and Pa Heritage Corridor opened in 1999. When completed, the seven-mile trail will run from Heavenly Waters Park on Tollgate Road to Friends Park in Forest Hill. There is a proposed equestrian loop that will join the Ma and Pa at Tollgate Road and continue south to property abutting the Equestrian Center at Heavenly Waters Park. The trail will provide connections to several small and regional parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and a proposed sculpture park.