Legacy Open Space

The Legacy Open Space initiative preserves the distinctive resources that set the County apart and enhance its appeal as a quality place to, live, visit, work and invest.


The first comprehensive plan of its kind, Legacy Open Space creates a $100 million, 10 year commitment of public and private dollars, and provides a visionary framework for the strategic protection of irreplaceable unprotected open space, watershed lands, and historic properties by the purchase of land or easements.

Legacy Open Space Functional Master Plan:

  • Safeguard more than 3,600 acres of exemplary and diverse natural resources.
  • Protect some 5,000 acres critical to the our surface water supply in the Patuxent River watershed and key parcels bounding reservoir.
  • Launch a heritage revitalization initiative to protect and interpret our rich array of historic places.
  • Develop market-based incentives to protect 1,500 acres of “at-risk” farmland and rural open spaces in the 93,000 acre Agricultural Reserve.
  • Connect a 100 mile ribbon of green natural surface trail corridor from the Potomac River to the Northwest Branch.
  • Green urban communities by creating “green boulevards” and neighborhood parks.
  • Plan proactively for a new regional park to serve growing mid-county communities.
  • Involve school, businesses, individuals, and communities in action initiatives focused on interpreting and managing these diverse resources.

Legacy Open Space is a creative and visionary response to the growing concern that open space is linked to quality of life. Voters across the country have expressed strong support for the protection of farmland, water quality, trails, sensitive natural area, and scenic open space. These open space resources not only provide a quality of life and community character, but support economic well-being as well.

Montgomery County is dedicated to attracting and maintaining a highly skilled workforce, and knows that in order to do so, it must make a serious commitment to safeguarding our natural resources, open spaces, and recreational lands.

Legacy Open Space is a promise to the workers and citizens of Montgomery County that the County’s rich heritage and extraordinary quality of life will be protected for their children and future generations.

What Lands are Considered Exceptional?

Open space lands of exceptional County-wide significance are best defined by the conditions that elevate them to “rise above the rest.” Sites must have at least one of the following qualities:

  1. The Resource has particular countywide, regional, or national significance in terms of:
    1. known or potential habitats for rare, threatened, or endangered species;
    2. a “best example” of terrestrial or aquatic community;
    3. unique or unusual ecological communities;
    4. large, diverse areas with a variety of habitats,
    5. exceptional viewscapes, architectural character or historic association.
  2. Critical to the successful implementation of public policy such as the protection of the Agricultural Reserve and public water supply.
  3. Part of a “critical mass” of like resources that perform an important environmental or heritage function.
  4. A significant contribution to one or more heritage themes.
  5. Provides human or ecological connectivity between significant park, natural or historic areas and/or corridors.
  6. Helps to buffer, and thereby protect other significant resources.
  7. Represents an opportunity for broadening interpretation and public understanding of natural and heritage resources.
  8. The Resource provides a significant opportunity to:
    1. increase access to public open space in communities with high population densities,
    2. to protect scarce open space in an urbanized community, or
    3. to improve the character of an existing urban boulevard of countywide or regional significance.

What Types of Open Space are Included?

  1. Protection of Environmentally Sensitive Natural Resources
    • Unique or exemplary natural communities, including habitats for rare, threatened and endangered or watchlist species and/or those based on unique geological formations.
    • Large areas of good quality, contiguous forest or large areas with a diversity of habitats that support a diversity of plants and wildlife.
    • Land well suited to buffer sensitive resources or for use as a wildlife/human use corridor between significant natural areas.
  2. Protection of Water Supplies
    • The property contains land in the Patuxent Primary Management Area (1/4 mile from the Patuxent mainstem and 1/8 mile from all tributaries).
    • Properties within priority subwatersheds identified by Countywide Stream Protection Strategy, the Source Water Protection Program, or other studies indicating vulnerable areas.
    • Properties (preferably greater than 10 acres) or groups of properties containing or adjacent to streams and adjacent to parkland.
  3. Conservation of Heritage Resources
    • Underground Railroad/Quaker Cluster
    • Farming History Cluster
    • Industrial Heritage Cluster
    • Rail Community Cluster
  4. Protection of Greenway Connections
    • Gaps in major natural surface trail corridors identified by the Countywide Park Trails Plan
  5. Protection of Farmland and Rural Open Spaces
    • Areas on the edges of the Agricultural Reserve
    • Active Farmland that could be protected through Agricultural Easements
  6. Protection of Urban Open Spaces
    • Key open spaces along major boulevards
    • Vacant land within existing urban neighborhoods
    • Important urban natural areas, especially if they promote interconnection of the urban green infrastructure

Advisory Group

The Legacy Open Space Advisory Group was formed in 1999 and varies from year to year. The Legacy Open Space Advisory Group will provide the following:

  • Continued public involvement in the master plan development and plan implementation
  • Identification of appropriate sites for Legacy Open Space protection and/or criteria for site selection

Private Donations

The long-term success of the Legacy Open Space program depends on the extent to which it becomes a true public/private partnership. Stakeholders in the community will need to work together if we are to achieve our goal of preserving the “best of the best” open space resources for future generations to enjoy.

Local tax dollars can help to leverage key property acquisitions, but it is unlikely that they will be ample enough to achieve all of the Legacy Open Space program’s goals. Private contributions of cash, property, and easements, as well as state and federal support, will be needed.

How can you help?

Gifts of Property or Easements
Donations of land and property easements can provide tax advantages to the donor, as well as the opportunity to leave a personal legacy.If your property is currently on the Legacy Open Space program’s “wish list”, or if you feel it might meet the criteria for being included.

Please contact us for an Application for new LOS Site Consideration for consideration section of this web site to submit your property information. The Legacy Open Space program staff can assist you in analyzing the options available to you in considering such a gift.

Estate Gifts, and Gifts of Cash and Securities
M-NCPPC has been the recipient of important donations including McCrillis Gardens, the Jessup Blair House, the Stadtman Preserve at Mill Creek and the Woodstock Equestrian Center and more.

Last Updated: October 2, 2018