Playing The Long Game to Ensure Public Access to Public Lands/Waters

lakemanassasdamsmJust before Thanksgiving, the Manassas City Council killed the latest initiative to open Lake Manassas to fishing and non-motorized boating.

The sponsor of the effort, Marc Aveni, was quoted in an InsideNOVA article:
This issue will come back. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year but there’s no way that a resource like that in an area like this with the sense that it makes to open it up to public use will be denied for too long.

At some point, savvy politicians will identify how public use could provide benefits (or lower costs) for Manassas, and the issue will be re-opened.  Recreational opportunities in still-suburbanizing Northern Virginia are valued, and locking up the lake will be recognized as excessively restrictive.

Members of the city council in Manassas will change over time.  The last vote blocked a study that would have identified the risks and analyzed potential impacts of public use.  The FUD campaign (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) to keep the lake closed may continue without any additional facts, but at some point the risks will be put into perspective and different city officials will reconsider the decision.
The greatest threat to Lake Manassas is pollution from a truck accident on Route 29 or a rail accident on Broad Run further upstream.  The “public lake – but no public use allowed” side has one fundamental challenge to address:
Fairfax Water extracts and treats water from Occoquan Reservoir to supply southern Fairfax County and eastern Prince William County – and Occoquan Reservoir is open for public use.  Why is Lake Manassas so different that a city police officer must be paid to patrol the lake and issue trespassing citations?

Bureaucrats are always tempted to claim public recreational uses might create risks or costs, so public lands should be fenced off.  Loudoun County is going through the same debate now with Beaverdam Reservoir.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service kept Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge closed to public access for 40 years.  During the completion of the Federal agency’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan, various justifications for perpetual closure finally melted away.  Public access is still limited, but county officials are negotiating a deal to allow easy public access from the Rippon VRE station to the refuge, crossing a narrow strip of land controlled by CSX.

There is other good news; the “Public Land – Keep Out” signs at Dove’s Landing are now gone.  It required years of effort by the Prince William Conservation Alliance before Prince William County officials agreed to make that 225-acre property into a park.

Lake Manassas will, someday, be opened to appropriate public uses.  In the meantime, the bass are growing bigger and bigger…

ripponat some point, the public will get access to Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge from Rippn VRE station…

2 comments so far

  1. A concerned citizen on

    I’ve recently learned that the City of Manassas plans to discontinue independent monitoring of the Lake Manassas water supply. The lake serves as drinking water supply to the city and area. With the crisis in Flint, Michigan so much in the news these days, this is a step in the opposite direction and a false economy.

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