Talbot County covers approximately 172,260 land acres. It is still a largely rural county with 52% or 89,575 acres zoned for agriculture. There are 73 agricultural districts totaling about 12,206 acres. Development rights have been purchased on about 5,864 of these acres.
The county is divided by Rt. 50 into western and eastern halves. The western half is characterized by numerous tidal rivers, creeks, and bays defining a land form that rises only a few feet above sea level in many areas. The eastern half of Talbot County is characterized by deep soils and is the location for many of the county’s 240 working farms. In 1995, the county’s population was 30,325. Slow steady growth is expected to increase this figure to 35,480 by the year 2010.
Approximately 65,000 acres of land in Talbot County are subject to Chesapeake Bay Critical Area protection. Of this total acreage, about 5,600 acres are tidal wetlands. Many of these lands have unique, rare or endangered wildlife or plants that are worthy of protection, and 703 acres are preserved as county and municipal parks. The state owns 485 acres, by far the smallest amount of state-owned land in any Maryland county.
A number of conservation groups hold easements on or own land throughout the county including The Nature Conservancy, Maryland Ornithological Society, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, Maryland Environmental Trust (MET), Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chesapeake Audubon, Izaak Walton League, Knapp Foundation, Warner Wildlife Sanctuary, and the McManus Institute Nature Preserve. The county also preserves land through protective zoning and reservation of development agreements on approximately 2,500 acres.
1) Easton-Clayton Rail Trail
The Easton-Clayton Rail Trail, known locally as the Easton Rail Trail, is a partially established rail trail that runs from Idlewild Avenue in the heart of Easton to Tanyard Branch. An initial 2.25-mile paved segment of the trail was completed in 1998. This existing segment connects Idlewild Park on the south end of town with the new North Easton Park at the north end of town and is widely utilized. Future expansion of the trail would follow the rail line north to the village of Cordova. The town has restored a historic railroad station along the trail which serves as a museum, visitors center, and offices for non-profit organizations.
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 continue north through Cordova along the route of the former Chesapeake Railroad through the north eastern part of Talbot County providing a connection to Tuckahoe State Park. The trail would then continue into Caroline County linking the towns of Hillsboro, Ridgely, and Goldsboro, and could eventually continue northward into Delaware.
2) St. Michaels Bike Trail
The St. Michaels Bike Trail is a potential greenways around the town of St. Michaels. A bike trail or greenways is being considered for development along an old railroad right-of-way skirting St. Michaels. Using Oxford Ferry, it would then be possible to link Easton, Oxford, and St. Michaels. The trail could be tied into the proposed scenic byway.
3) Talbot County Scenic Byways
Further action regarding the Talbot County Scenic Byways plan is currently on hold. This plan, which is meant to explore uses along Routes 33, 329, 333, and 322 could include bike and pedestrian paths.
4) Tuckahoe River Greenways
The land adjacent to the Tuckahoe and Choptank rivers in northeast Talbot County is in the approved Tuckahoe River Rural Legacy Plan Area. This area covers about 6,000 acres. The county is committed to protecting the rural character of this area and has set an overall protection goal of 40,000 acres for the whole county using all methods of land preservation by 2020. It is anticipated that a good deal of forests, sensitive areas, and natural resource land will also come under some kind of protection.
4a) Choptank and Tuckahoe River Water Trail
Canoe and kayak recreation has been popular on the Tuckahoe River for a long time. The county, in partnership with Caroline County and a host of private citizens is currently investigating the potential of establishing an official water trail route along the Tuckahoe and Choptank rivers.