“Public Lake – Keep Out” or “Welcome to Lake Manassas”?

Lake Manassas is a public lake with above-average fishing opportunities – but for years, county and city officials have kept the lake closed to the public.

Prince William County, in its typical petulant dealings with the City of Manassas, blocked efforts by the city to maintain a marina on the lake.  The city has also operated in a high-handed manner.  It resolved a dispute with the marina operator – by blocking all public access to the lake.  Since the city locked the gates, it has demolished the marina and cited bass fishermen as trespassers.

Lake Manassas is a public water supply, but total closure is overkill.  Why?  The answer is nearby, just downstream.

Every now and then, you might hear that we need to block public access to Lake Manassas in order to keep the terrorists away from drinking water.  However, Occoquan Reservoir is the public water supply for many more people in Fairfax/Prince William, and recreation use is welcome on that waterbody.  The city even gets some of its drinking water from the open-to-the-public Occoquan Reservoir.

Public use is an acceptable risk at Occoquan Reservoir; it ought to be just as acceptable at Lake Manassas. In fact, many Virginia reservoirs have unrestricted public access – Beaverdam Creek Reservoir in Loudoun, the Abel and Smith Reservoirs in Stafford, Mountain Run and Lake Pelham Reservoirs in Culpeper.

Another excuse to barricade the lake is that zebra mussels might infest it, clogging the intake pipe to the water plant.  The state eradicated zebra mussels from the hard rocks in Milbrook Quarry upstream, but some think the risk of the invasive species getting established on the muddy substrate at Lake Manassas is overstated.  Fairfax County is just as concerned about its drinking water treatment facilities – but still invites the public to boat and fish on Occoquan Reservoir.

Previous efforts to open the lake have failed in part because many recreational users will not be city residents.  Fortunately, Manassas officials have continued to explore ways to allow public access to the lake.  In 2008, the city’s Utility Commission considered policies for interim boating access for adjacent property owners.   The January 2009 Strategic Plan of the city’s Utility Department’s  includes a key strategy for Excellent Customer Service: “Open Lake Manassas to boating and fishing with a Marina.

A developer, Brookfield Homes, is proposing to deed 25 acres to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.  The state would create a boat ramp, and public access would be restored to Lake Manassas at virtually no cost to the city.

More to come.  A City Council work session on Lake Manassas is scheduled for 5:30pm, December 7 at City Hall (second floor) the Public Works building, 8500 Public Works Drive, Manassas 20110, directions.

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1 comment so far

  1. […] the the Public Works building, 8500 Public Works Drive, Manassas 20110, directions. Click here and here for more information about the current […]


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