“No place stays special by accident.”
- Ed McMahon, Charles E. Fraser Chair on Sustainable Development, Urban Land Institute
Vibrant Small Towns are Essential to a Vibrant Rural Region
Maryland’s Eastern Shore has the makings of a prosperous rural region. Nearly a quarter of the rural lands are protected through conservation. Renewed efforts are in place for a clean Chesapeake Bay. Shifting real estate trends are pushing development toward cities not countryside.
This rural region’s small towns need support. These communities historically have served as the economic and social hubs – as market places, community gathering spots, and population centers. They have, however, taken a battering over the past twenty years from sprawl and uncertainty about their identity and futures.
Without towns that act as magnets for sustainable growth, the path of least resistance for development leads to more cornfield subdivisions and sprawling at crossroads and community edges. Not only will this erode our farms and wallets, but we lose one of the most distinct qualities of our landscape and culture.
How ESLC Supports Small Towns
Toward this challenge, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy is engaged with the places, projects and people that will foster sustainability and vibrancy in our region’s towns. Our work focuses on:
- Planning and design projects that help foster change in places that need them;
- Resource sharing that includes technical support, networking, partnerships and funding opportunities.
Our programs are community driven, with a deep commitment to diversity and public engagement, and belief in the power of community land projects and education to ignite and amplify positive change.
Our Vision for Eastern Shore Towns
Eastern Shore towns should be vibrant and well-defined. Specifically, we are working to help our towns host most of the growth in the region, become models of innovative economic development, and provide plenty of open, green spaces.
Our Expertise Areas
- Community engagement
- Community design
- Property acquisition
- Land conservation
- Land use policy
- Project funding/fundraising
- Volunteer management
- Eastern Shore Annual Planning Conference (October 3, 2013)
- Education and training workshops
- Weekly email news/information about town planning and local policy issues
- Sampling of issues our projects have addressed
- Public park design
- Public access to land and water
- Bike and pedestrian routes and signage
- Town gateway design
- Climate change adaptation strategies
- Planning, with a focus on developing a dream for a town’s future
Interested towns and community members are welcome to contact ESLC to discuss projects, challenges and opportunities. Where and when ESLC cannot help directly, we can make suggestions about other partners, ideas and options.
Sampling of Our Project Work
The City of Cambridge and ESLC are working on designs for the U.S. Route 50 and Maryland Avenue intersection into Cambridge to attract more people onto Maryland Avenue, the entrance to the city, and into the commercial district. Through meaningful public engagement exercises, community members led design recommendations, which include creating a street that is more accessible and enjoyable for pedestrians and cyclists, stormwater management improvements, vacant property reuse, new healthy trees, and more effective and attractive directional signs. While design work is underway, the City currently is testing out new bike lane pavement markings.
Eastern Shore Conservation Center
ESLC is working to transform a vacant Easton warehouse into a charismatic green building that brings new vitality to both the neighborhood and the town. Called the Eastern Shore Conservation Center, this facility will create a working home for our employees and for other organizations and businesses. This hub of activity will spark collaboration and innovation around conservation at a new scale for the Eastern Shore. With nearly half of the campus available for public use, a place where people can buy a cup of coffee, sit in the courtyard, sign up to use a community gathering space, or stop in to see what the Eastern Shore’s conservation organizations are trying to do here.
ESLC and the Town of Easton, with funding from the Town Creek Foundation, led a series of community charrettes to help the Town plan a vision for an 11-acre brownfield site into its only waterfront park. Residents called for open space for walking, biking, and accessing the water for kayaks and canoes. These qualities plus space for community gatherings and music venues were woven into a schematic design for the park, which will be delivered to the Town. Easton leaders have resolved to create the park and are discussing plans for rails-to-trail extensions that would connect this future park to the town center and surrounding homes.
Oxford Stormwater Strategy
In partnership with the Town of Oxford, the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, ESLC is helping support a community mapping, diagnosis, and planning for the town’s growing flooding/sea level rise issues. Through a public dialogue and convening of experts, a strategy for funding and planning stormwater management is being drafted to advise the Town on a range of possible actions that could include regulatory, financial, and technical actions needed ensure resilience and adaptation to their water challenges.
In partnership with the town of East New Market and funding from the Dorchester Heart of the Chesapeake Heritage Authority, ESLC led a community conversation to help create a plan for an 8-acre property at risk of a residential development incongruent with the look and feel of the existing town. The property at the town center is historically important to the community. Residents recognized a natural recreational opportunity at the site. With the help from university design students, a vision for a park was so strong, it inspired the town’s first general obligation bond to purchase the property. This land now is held in permanent protection by the Maryland Environmental Trust’s first urban conservation easement (co-held with ESLC), with the town exploring options for new bike and walking paths, as well as a community garden.