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 October 21, 2020 to approve the expansion of the Zekiah Swamp Rural Legacy Area in Charles County, essentially doubling its size.

Originally approved in 1998, the Zekiah Watershed Rural Legacy Area follows the boundaries of the Zekiah Swamp Run. The Area has many historic and archaeological sites, forests, and wetlands of Special State concern. It contains the largest natural hardwood swamp in the State and is considered by the Smithsonian Institute to be one of the most important ecological areas on the East Coast.

The new expansion area is comprised of 30,591 acres including properties on both the Potomac and Wicomico Rivers within Targeted Ecological Areas. The expansion is also within the U.S. Navy’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program preservation boundary, which allows for the ability to leverage Rural Legacy funds with REPI funds.


Also in Charles County, Smart Growth Maryland is continuing our work to establish a new Nanjemoy Rural Legacy Area. The County has been moving forward with the process, and thanks to the direct advocacy of members of the Smarter Growth Alliance of Charles County, one of Smart Growth Maryland’s local initiatives, areas of the Mattawoman Watershed have been added to the proposed RLA boundaries after being previously excluded. The Charles County Planning Commission will have its next meeting on the proposed RLA in early November, after which the proposal will hopefully move on to the Board of County Commissioners for approval.


Created in 1997, Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program has preserved 86,103 acres of valuable forests, farmland, and natural areas. Every Maryland county includes at least one Rural Legacy Area. 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.

Learn more about Rural Legacy Areas

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