Indian Head Rail Trail Interpretive Sign
A new sign that explains the importance of headwaters to water quality in the rivers they feed has been installed on the Indian Head Rail trail. The sign, which was created by PTRC and Charles County Parks and Grounds, has been placed on the south side of a bridge near the White Plains end of the Rail Trail.
Page’s Swamp, one of the headwaters of the Port Tobacco River, is on the north side of the bridge and flows into Port Tobacco Creek via culverts under the bridge. The creek, in turn, flows into the Port Tobacco River.
The sign explains the ecological importance of swamps and wetlands, which control floods, clean the water, create habitat for fish and other wildlife, and provide beautiful places to hike, fish, and boat. Healthy headwater streams also provide environmental benefits by bringing a continuous flow of clean water to surface water and helping to recharge underground aquifers, as well as reducing the pollution that flows downstream by retaining sediments and excess nutrients. The health of these resources is critical to the health of the Port Tobacco River.
Proposed Dense Development in 1,100 Acres
Page’s Swamp and 1,100 acres surrounding it are slated for dense residential development under a new provision of the County’s 2015 Draft Comprehensive Plan. This area had been part of the Deferred Development District (DDD). When most of the DDD was proposed to be converted to a Watershed Conservation District, the 1,100 acres was carved out with the justification that it is in the Priority Funding Area (PFA).
Maryland’s 1997 Priority Funding Areas Act was designed to influence economic growth and development by directing state funding to existing communities and places where local governments wanted state investment to support future growth. PFAs were established to meet three key goals:
- To preserve existing communities
- To make the best use of state infrastructure dollars by building on past investments, and
- To reduce development pressure on critical farmland and natural resource areas by encouraging projects in already developed areas.
Charles County’s PFAs include Waldorf and White Plains on both sides of Rte 301 from Marshall Corner road north to the county line. However, because it was part of the DDD, much of the land in the 1,100 acres has not been developed and is in forest and agricultural use, and therefore does not meet any of the goals for PFAs. In addition, the Indian Head Rail Trail runs through it.
In proposing the Watershed Conservation District, which includes most of the area within the Mattawoman Stream Valley, county planners recognized that the area includes protected lands, steep slopes, and wetlands. It also acknowledges that it is a sensitive natural resource with long-term value to the community for its ecological, aesthetic, scenic, recreational, and economic value. The 1,100-acre area that includes headwaters of the Port Tobacco River has many of the same characteristics as the Mattawoman Stream Valley and is unsuitable for residential development for the same reasons. Therefore, the 1,100 acres should be included in the Watershed Conservation District, and the Comprehensive Plan should be amended to reflect that.
Proposed Washington Glen Development
Aerial view of site of proposed Washington Glen development
Washington Glen is a proposed 137 acre development of 110 single family homes and 299 townhouses with the 1,100 acre area slated for dense residential development. The developer has submitted a proposed Zoning Map Amendment to change the zoning to Medium Density Residential from its current zoning of Resource Conservation (Deferred).
The Charles County Planning Commission held a public hearing on the Zoning Map Amendment request on June 22, 2015. PTRC was well-represented at the hearing. President Jerry Forbes, Technical Advisor Dave Gardiner, and long-time members Nancy Smart and Joe Selden testified against the amendment, as did representatives of the Mason Springs Conservancy, the Mattawoman Watershed Society, the Conservancy for Charles County, and Citizens for a Better Charles County. Numerous residents also testified in favor of controlling growth to protect quality of life.