Montgomery County is characterized by gently sloping topography, laced with numerous small streams in relatively narrow valleys. The area draining to the Patuxent is more dramatic, with steep slopes and cliffs. The county is experiencing a continuing increase in population. In 1997, the population was approximately 810,000 and is projected to reach 945,000 by 2010. Population growth is increasing mostly in the I-270 and Rt. 29 corridors, and the county is highly urbanized inside the beltway and along the I-270 corridor.
The county’s park acquisition program, which has been active since the creation of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) by the General Assembly in the 1920s, forms the basis of an extensive stream valley greenways system. There are about 28,000 acres in its park system, which consist of about 12,000 acres of stream valley parks, extending as greenways throughout the urban areas and into the countryside. The stream valley parks form the foundation of the park system. This greenways system interconnects and provides the framework for the county-wide trail network. An expanded planning effort is underway to determine additional public and private land that should be preserved for greenways. The county’s policy is to have a greenways component or biking/trails component in urban areas in area master plans as they are updated.
The county uses many tools to assist in developing, financing, and protecting greenways: Program Open Space, Transportation Enhancement Fund, Rural Legacy Program, conservation easements, agricultural preservation easements, mitigation sites, donations, life estates, and fee simple acquisitions. Land-use regulations and the subdivision review process are used to protect greenways, provide dedication of parkland, and preserve forest conservation easements and homeowner association properties.
The county document, Parks for Tomorrow, Preparing for the 21st Century envisions citizens obtaining information on parks, trails, and greenways from the county’s web site, public malls, libraries, and appropriately placed computer terminals throughout the county. The plan also envisions volunteers to patrol and maintain the trails and greenways. An expanded planning effort is underway to identify additional public and private land that should be preserved for greenways.
The county covers approximately 316,270 land acres. Thirty-three percent (33%) or 104,369 acres are zoned agricultural. Scattered agricultural lands are located in the north, northeast, and northwest portions of the county. The county has achieved 71% of its preservation goal in the county’s Agricultural Reserve. Forty thousand of the 50,000 acres protected so far were preserved through the county’s Transfer of Development Rights Program, which is the best in the nation.
1) Cabin John Creek
Cabin John Creek is an existing stream valley greenways which runs from just south of the city of Rockville to connect with the Potomac River. The corridor is owned by M-NCPPC. A natural surface trail exists within the stream valley for most of its length. At the northern end of this greenways is Cabin John Regional Park with many regional facilities and hard surface trails.
2) Capital Crescent Trail
This is a partially completed trail along the 12-mile long former Georgetown Branch railroad right-of-way from Georgetown in Washington, D.C. to Silver Spring. The completed portion extends 3.3 miles within Montgomery County from downtown Bethesda south to the D.C. line. An additional 3.7 miles exist in D.C. The Montgomery County portion is managed by M-NCPPC and consists of a hard surface trail with a gravel jogging shoulder along most of its length.
The remainder of the Georgetown Branch right-of-way, approximately 3.3 miles between Bethesda and Silver Spring, is managed by the Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation. This section, in conjunction with a 1.1 mile section of the CSX Metropolitan Branch main line to the Silver Spring Metro Station is being considered for a combination busway with hard surface trail or light rail transit with trail. Montgomery County has constructed a gravel trail through this remaining portion of the Georgetown Branch right-of-way.
3) Dry Seneca Creek
Dry Seneca Creek is a potential stream valley greenways which has its origins just south of Rt. 107 near Poolsville and connects with Great Seneca Creek to the southeast. M-NCPPC owns a section of the Dry Seneca Creek stream valley. The remaining portion of the corridor is within the acquisition boundary for the county’s Dry Seneca Creek Park.
4) Great Seneca Creek
Great Seneca Creek is an existing stream valley greenways which begins in Damascus and connects with the Potomac River. Additional linkages occur with Dry Seneca and Little Seneca Creeks. Seneca Creek State Park and M-NCPPC’s Great Seneca Creek Park combine to place most of the corridor in public ownership. A 25-mile, unpaved trail has been proposed for the Great Seneca Greenways. Construction of the first segment has been completed by volunteers. Ten miles of multi-use, loop trails have been constructed in the section of Seneca Creek State Park adjacent to Schaffer Road.
5) Hawlings River
Hawlings River is a stream valley greenways that begins at the Patuxent River east of Sandy Spring/Aston. The greenways has a link to Reddy Branch and includes Rachel Carson Conservation Park. M-NCPPC owns the stream valley corridor. A natural surface trail has been proposed within this corridor. A connection is planned to link this greenways to the Patuxent River.
6) Little Bennett Creek
This is a stream valley greenways connecting the Monocacy River watershed in Frederick County through Little Bennett Regional Park to near Damascus Regional Park and the Magruder Branch Greenways. Hard surface and natural surface trails are planned to connect Little Bennett Regional Park to other greenways in Clarksburg. (See Little Seneca Creek.)
7) Little Falls Creek
Little Falls Creek is a stream valley greenways stretching from just southwest of Bethesda to the Potomac River. M-NCPPC owns the land within the Little Falls Creek stream corridor. Little Falls Creek Park contains a hard surface trail. The Capital Crescent Trail connects to the Little Falls Creek Greenways in Bethesda.
8) Little Paint Branch
This is a stream valley greenways connecting McKnew Local Park and Fairland Recreational Park, which extends into Prince George’s County. A hard surface trail is proposed for a portion of this greenways.
9) Little Seneca Creek
This is a stream valley greenways connecting to Kings Pond Local Park and Ovid Hazen Wells Recreational Park on the north, through Black Hills Regional Park to Great Seneca Greenways on the south at both South Germantown Recreational Park and North Germantown Special Park. Hard surface and natural surface trails are planned to traverse portions of this greenways.
10) Long Branch
Long Branch is an existing stream valley greenways that begins south of Franklin Street in Silver Spring and travels south into Takoma Park. M-NCPPC owns the greenways corridor. Hard surface trails are adjacent to the stream in some locations.
11) Magruder Branch
Magruder Branch is an existing stream valley greenways originating south of Damascus and connecting to Great Seneca Creek. The corridor is owned by M-NCPPC and contains a hard surface trail for most of its length. Extension of the trail and other neighborhood connections are planned.
12) Matthew Henson Greenways
The Matthew Henson Greenways is three miles long. It links Matthew Henson State Park to Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park in the Layhill area just north of Wheaton and west of Georgia Avenue. The majority of the greenways is owned by M-NCPPC. A few parcels west of Georgia Avenue are owned by the state and are part of the Matthew Henson State Park. A trail is currently proposed to connect Rock Creek to Northwest Branch through the state park and greenways.
13) Matthew Henson State Park
The Matthew Henson State Park is an existing, two-mile long, stream valley greenways along the Turkey Branch of Rock Creek in the Aspen Hill area, from Veirs Mill Road to Georgia Avenue. Management has been transferred to Montgomery County under an agreement with DNR. The park connects Rock Creek Stream Valley Park Greenways with the Matthew Henson Greenways. The state park is part of the former Rockville Facility right-of-way. A trail is currently proposed for this greenways.
14) Metropolitan Branch Trail
The Metropolitan Branch Trail is a potential seven-mile trail that would run from Silver Spring to Union Station in Washington, D.C. The trail would provide access to seven metro stations.
15) Muddy Branch
Muddy Branch is an existing stream valley greenways beginning in Gaithersburg and connecting to the Potomac River. The corridor is owned by M-NCPPC and the city of Gaithersburg. A connection to the Rock Creek Greenways is planned. A trail linking Blockhouse Point Park and the C&O Canal National Historical Park has been proposed.
16) North Branch of Rock Creek
The North Branch is an existing stream valley greenways starting south of Rt. 108 near Mt. Zion and connecting to Rock Creek. The corridor is owned by M-NCPPC. North Branch Park is largely undeveloped. A trail system is located adjacent to Lake Frank near the southern portion of the greenways. Extension of this trail has been proposed. Properties linking the North Branch Greenways with Reddy Branch Park are within the park acquisition boundaries.
17) Northwest Branch
Northwest Branch is an existing stream valley greenways that originates near Rt. 108 in the Olney/Sandy Spring area and extends south to connect with the Anacostia River mainstem in Prince George’s County. The vast majority of the Northwest Branch corridor is owned by M-NCPPC.
A hard surface trail exists south of I-495 and extends into Prince George’s County. Natural surface trails exist in the center section from Kemp Mill Road to just south of the beltway, and are proposed for the section north of Kemp Mill Road.
18) Ovid Hazen Wells
This is a proposed stream valley greenways connecting Little Seneca Greenways through Ovid Hazen Wells Park to the Magruder Branch Greenways. Hard surface and natural surface trails will be provided when this area is developed.
19) Paint Branch
Paint Branch is a stream valley greenways stretching through Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The Montgomery County portion of the corridor is in public ownership. Paint Branch originates south of Rt. 108 near Burtonsville and flows toward the southeast through the U.S. Naval Surface Weapons Center.
Paint Branch Park contains about five miles of hard surface trails in Montgomery County, including trails in the adjacent Martin Luther King Recreational Park. A natural surface trail has been proposed for the northern part of the Paint Branch Greenways, eventually connecting with the Patuxent Regional Greenways.
20) Patuxent Regional Greenways
The Patuxent Regional Greenways is a partially established regional stream valley greenways that includes seven jurisdictions extending from central Maryland through southern Maryland. The Patuxent River serves as the spine for the greenways which runs through Howard, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s counties. DNR currently owns about 15,000 acres along the Patuxent River and is working with local officials to extend portions along the mainstem.
The Patuxent River forms the northeast boundary of Montgomery County. A significant portion of the Patuxent Regional Greenways corridor in Montgomery County is owned by DNR (Patuxent River State Park) and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (Triadelphia and T. Howard Duckett reservoirs). The Patuxent Regional Greenways links with Hawlings River in Montgomery County.
The primary purpose of the upper Patuxent Regional Greenways is water quality protection. However, trails for public use run through sections of the corridor. Fishing, canoeing, and rowing are also available at both reservoirs.
21) Potomac River Greenways
The Potomac River Greenways is an existing greenways along the Potomac River. Public properties in Montgomery County make a significant contribution to the multi-state Potomac River Greenways. Cabin John Branch, Little Falls Creek, Muddy Branch, Great Seneca Creek, Rock Run, and Watts Branch are direct tributary stream valley greenways owned by M-NCPPC or DNR. The C&O Canal National Historical Park, which extends along the Potomac from Georgetown to Cumberland, places the river corridor in Montgomery County under the ownership and management of the National Park Service.
Natural and hard surface trails exist or have been proposed for some of the stream valley greenways that link to the Potomac. The C&O Canal towpath, which parallels the river, is heavily used by both bicyclists and walkers. Access to the Potomac River is also available from the national park for canoeists, fishermen, and white water kayakers.
22) Reddy Branch
Reddy Branch stream valley greenways begins in the Rachel Carson Conservation Park and connects to the North Branch/Rock Creek Greenways. Most of the corridor is owned by M-NCPPC. The remaining properties, which complete a link to North Branch, are within the county’s acquisition boundaries. Reddy Branch connects to the Hawlings River Greenways. A natural surface trail system has been proposed jointly for both greenways.
23) Rock Creek
Rock Creek is a stream valley greenways that originates south of Rt. 108, passes through Rockville, and enters the District of Columbia below Chevy Chase. The Rock Creek Greenways extends through Washington, D.C. to the Lincoln Memorial. M-NCPPC owns the corridor in Montgomery County. Rock Creek provides a link to the North Branch and Matthew Henson Park greenways. A 14-mile hard surface trail runs from Lake Needwood, north of Rockville, to near the District line. Rock Creek Park is one of the most popular bicycling locations in the Washington metropolitan area. A natural surface trail extension is planned to connect with the Hawlings River and Patuxent Greenways through Reddy Branch. A proposal to extend the current trail north to Rt. 108 will serve Olney area residents.
24) Rock Run
This stream valley greenways traverses the Rock Run stream valley from north of Brickyard Road to MacArthur Boulevard. Trails on adjacent private property cross or extend into the greenways at some points.
25) Sligo Creek
Sligo Creek is a stream valley greenways which originates in Wheaton and connects with Northwest Branch in Prince George’s County and the Anacostia Trails network. A hard surface trail runs adjacent to Sligo Creek along its entire length from Wheaton Regional Park to the District line.
An eight-foot wide, hard surface trail has been constructed by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) in conjunction with a sewer line replacement and stream-bank stabilization. Parking along the trail is available at several locations in Montgomery County. A detailed map is available from WSSC.