Nanjemoy-Mattawoman Forest Rural Legacy Area

Smart Growth Victory: Designation of New Rural Legacy Area in Charles County

12/09/2021
By Elly Colmers Cowan

As a result of advocacy work by Smart Growth Maryland and our local smart growth and land conservation partners, the Maryland Board of Public Works voted on December 1, 2021 to approve the designation of 64,000 acres in Charles County to create the new Nanjemoy-Mattawoman Forest Rural Legacy Area.

The Smarter Growth Alliance of Charles County, one of the county-wide coalitions led by Smart Growth Maryland, has long been an advocate for the designation of a Nanjemoy-Mattawoman Rural Legacy Area. Additionally, the creation of this second Rural Legacy Area in Charles County is called for in the county’s 2016 Comprehensive Plan and the 2017 Land Preservation, Parks, and Recreation Plan.

The scenic and pristine Mattawoman Creek. Chesapeake Bay Program.

The scenic and pristine Mattawoman Creek. Chesapeake Bay Program.

Smart Growth Maryland and other members of the Alliance worked with the County’s Planning Department to develop the proposed boundaries that includes nearly the entire Nanjemoy peninsula, extending to Nanjemoy Creek in the east and Mattawoman Creek to the north. As a direct result of the advocacy work of Smart Growth Maryland and our partners, the final approved boundary now protects 64,000 acres, up from the originally proposed 40,000 acres.

Expansion of Proposed Nanjemoy RLA Boundary Timeline

Created in 1997, Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program has preserved 86,103 acres of valuable forests, farmland, and natural areas. The designation gives local governments and land trusts access to additional funding sources to help purchase conservation easements from landowners. As a member of the Partners for Open Space steering committee, Preservation Maryland advocates for full funding for Rural Legacy and other land conservation programs every year during the legislative session in Annapolis.

Every Maryland County includes at least one Rural Legacy Area, and the Nanjemoy-Mattawoman Forest Rural Legacy Area is Charles County’s second. Charles County’s first Rural Legacy Area, the Zekiah Watershed Rural Legacy Area, was established in 1998 and is noted by the Smithsonian Institution to be one of the most important ecological areas on the East Coast because of its unique and robust natural hardwood swamp. The Zekiah Rural Legacy Area was expanded in October 2020 to nearly double the current size, thanks to the advocacy of Smart Growth Maryland and our partners.

Elly Colmers Cowan · Director of Government Relations

Elly Cowan works at the local, state, and federal levels to advance the historic preservation, smart growth, and community development policies that make Preservation Maryland's work possible.

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