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Blue Mash Nature Trails at the Oaks Landfill

Blue Mash Nature Trails - trails map

Approximate parking lot locations

6001 Olney-Laytonsville Road
Laytonsville MD 20882
Google map

20600 Zion Road
Laytonsville, MD 20882
Google map

About the trails

The phrase "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" applies to landfills, too. Montgomery County officials officially opened hiking and shared-use trails at the former site of the Oaks Landfill in Laytonsville on June 29, 2001. The natural surface trails are located in the buffer area around the closed landfill.

The Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPWT) constructed the trails after working with staff from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), the Oaks Landfill Advisory Commission and members of the local community to develop a plan for post-landfill use of the Oaks property. The plan includes natural surface trails and signage. Local equestrians also expressed interest in a future equestrian ring in the large open area between the landfill and Route 108.

"When the landfill closed in 1997, we promised the residents of Laytonsville that we would convert the land to usable public space," said then-County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. "With the opening of these trails, we have taken an important first step in fulfilling that promise to the community."

Staff from the County’s DPWT and the M-NCPPC worked together to implement the plan. Four miles of natural surface trails were prepared and marked for public use, and parking areas were constructed. Parking for hikers is located at the Zion Road entrance, and for equestrians, cyclists and hikers, parking is located at the Route 108 entrance. The trails are be maintained by County staff and local volunteer groups.

The Blue Mash Nature Trail for hikers is located on the eastern side. It loops through an easy, but diverse, natural terrain for 1.25 miles, with an optional segment that extends the trail to 1.6 miles. This trail commemorates the pre-Civil War settlement called Blue Mash, which was inhabited for many years by freed slaves from the nearby Riggs Plantation. The colloquial pronunciation of marsh was "mash." Prior to emancipation, the Blue Mash swamp was known to have been a hiding place for fugitive slaves.

The shared use trails are primarily located in the large field areas on the western side of the landfill and in the forested land to the north of the landfill. Approximately 2.75 miles of trail is available for equestrian and cyclist use. Most of this will be part of a much larger planned greenway trail, eventually extending from Rock Creek Regional Park to the Patuxent River.

The 550-acre Oaks Landfill opened in June 1982 and operated for 15 years. The County closed the landfill in 1997 after signing a long-term contract with a Virginia firm to transport ash residue from the Resource Recovery Facility in Dickerson and other noncombustible waste materials to a landfill in Brunswick County, VA.

Blue Mash Nature Trail Bird Photos

Participants on a February 2011 bird walk on the Blue Mash Nature Trails spotted these and other species.

Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl, photo credit: Evelyn Ralston

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow, photo credit: Evelyn Ralston

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk, photo credit: Evelyn Ralston