Lake Manassas – Will the City Council invest in public access or a lawsuit?
UPDATE April 7, 2011 — At Manassas City’s budget mark up session on Wednesday, April 6, Councilmen approved $80,000 to hire a policeman to patrol Lake Manassas. This is in addition to funding a lawsuit aimed at keeping Lake Manassas closed. How much is Manassas prepared to spend to keep the Lake closed?
UPDATE February 20, 2011 — According to the Washington Post, the Manassas City Council has rejected partner support, including Brookfield’s offer to donate land for a public access point and the Game Dept. offer to invest $100,000 for infrastructure. Councilmen claimed the $16,400 investment to cover the gap was too much for the City to pay… but they are apparently willing to invest significant public funds to ensure the Lake stays closed to the public.
July 2010 — While the Manassas City Council continues to drag their feet, public and private partners have stepped up to the plate with commitments to fund most expenses. The Virginia Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF) has committed $100,000 to build a boat ramp, parking lot and finger pier. DGIF also says they would provide an operations stipend to offset costs for a concession stand and monitor the Lake.
The developer of the Saranac community on Lake Manassas has offered to donate land to serve as a public access point. Over the past two years, the developer has been working diligently but without success to gain access to the Lake for their development, as allowed in the property deed.
However, prospective partner George Mason University’s business plan for the first year shows expected revenues of $40,600 and operating expenses of $57,000… a gap of $16,400, which Manassas says they are not willing to cover.
While the City Council stalls, the potential for a lawsuit to gain access to the Lake for the Saranac community looms on the horizon. Given the significant funding support offered by others, the City’s costs to open the Lake to public access pale in comparison to those required to fight a lawsuit.
It’s a lose-lose scenario for the public and an expensive gamble for the City Council… if the City were to lose the lawsuit, Lake Manassas would likely be opened to the public without restrictions.
If the City is interested in unrestricted access, they can do it right now without spending considerable monies on a lawsuit. Unrestricted access means there would be no need to fund a concession stand or other amenities.
Under this scenario, DGIF would assume responsibilities for law enforcement, managing surveys and stocking the lake. They would also construct a low-impact gravel parking lot, boat ramp and finger pier, as already included in their budget.
The open-access approach is successful at other Virginia reservoirs, including the Occoquan Reservoir in Prince William, Beaverdam Creek Reservoir in Loudoun, the Abel and Smith Reservoirs in Stafford, Mountain Run and Lake Pelham Reservoirs in Culpeper.
The City of Manassas currently has four options. They could (1) open Lake Manassas through a partnership with George Mason University, DGIF and the developer of Saranac communities, or (2) open the Lake with unrestricted access, which works at the Occoquan and other Virginia reservoirs.
On the flip side, the City could (3) opt to fund an expensive lawsuit aimed at preventing public access to Lake Manassas, risking a loss that could result in unrestricted access. Or the City Council could (4) continue stalling, hope the developer does not follow through with a lawsuit and keep Lake Manassas closed to the public.
While Northern Virginia residents enjoy unrestricted access for recreation to the Occoquan Reservoir, the 800-acre Lake Manassas has been closed to the public for many years. The Manassas City Council has a unique opportunity to partner with others to open Lake Manassas to the public right now.
Will the City Council take advantage of the significant commitments offered by partners to open the Lake to the public or will they instead opt to invest in a costly lawsuit aimed at keeping the Lake closed?