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Understanding Conservation Easements at Deep Creek Lake

published: March 24, 2022

If you have recently purchased a home at Deep Creek Lake you have probably been bombarded with a long list of complicated terminology such as buffer strips, buydown areas and rule bands. If you want to gain a general understanding of what these terms mean at Deep Creek Lake there is a great resource available from our friends at Taylor Made Reality. However, there is one term in particular that you should focus on and understand as a new or prospective owner of property at Deep Creek Lake. That term is “Conservation Easement.”

When a buyer purchases a home with waterfront access on Deep Creek Lake, the state of Maryland retains ownership of the “buffer strip” or the land that directly touches the water. This can be distressing given that a home with waterfront access is up to 250% more valuable than a home without waterfront access. Fortunately, the state’s ownership of the buffer strip is nothing to worry about so long as you understand the rules of the arrangement. The state of Maryland provides property owners an easement, or right to use the buffer strip, that allows access to the lake with a few limitations. This access is known as a “conservation easement” and ensures that the lake remains unpolluted and beautiful for everyone. However, it is important to understand which actions are permitted and which action are prohibited when considering whether to purchase property bordering Deep Creek Lake.

The following actions are permitted but require the written approval of Department of Natural Resource:

  1. The installation of nonpermanent pathways or stairways.
  2. The installation of utilities to serve facilities on the state land.
  3. The retention of structures that are identified on the Deed of Conservation Easement plat maps. These are structures that existed at the time that the easement was agreed to.
  4. The installation of temporary structures with a footprint no greater than 120 sq ft.

Other actions are completely prohibited in all cases. These actions include:

  1. The construction of new buildings.
  2. Establishing new means of access to the lake.
  3. The erection of fences or other barriers.
  4. Fires of any kind or size.
  5. Cutting, removal or destruction of trees, shrubs, and other woody vegetation, except with written approval from DNR.
  6. Dumping or storing materials on the property; for example, ashes, trash, rubbish, abandoned machinery, vehicles, vessels, appliances.
  7. Excavation or mining, including removal of soil or sand, except with written approval from DNR for the temporary excavation to maintain lake access or to remedy a failed septic system.
  8. Diking, draining, filling, dredging, or removing any wetland or wetlands.
  9. Erecting signs, billboards, or outdoor advertising displays except temporary signs not exceeding 6 sq ft to advertise the property’s sale or rental.
  10. Allowing access by the public to cross or use the property.
  11. Any Industrial or commercial activities.

If you want a smooth transition into property ownership at Deep Creek Lake, the right law firm is critical. Geppert, McMullen, Paye, & Getty is a well-established local law firm with over seventy years of real estate experience as well as extensive local connections in the area. You can contact us at 301-777-1515. We are available to assist you Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm.

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