Archive for the ‘Lake Manassas’ Category

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.
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Lake Manassas Update

lakemanassasTonight (November 12), the City of Manassas Finance Committee considered a proposal to study the risks involved in opening Lake Manassas to public use.  The vote was 2-1 to reject funding a $45,000 study, but the entire City Council will consider it on November 24.

The lake remains closed to public use, with $80,000 or so spent annually for the city police to patrol the lake and issue trespass citations.  Even adjacent property owners are banned from putting a canoe on the lake.

Members of City Council have expressed fear, uncertainty and doubt about the safety of the water supply if public use was allowed.  Fairfax Water long ago decided that public use was OK;  it permits boats and fishing on Occoquan Reservoir.   Even motorboats zip across Lake Jackson, located between Lake Manassas and Occoquan Reservoir (and part of the water supply for Fairfax/eastern Prince William).

A scientific study could answer the questions regarding the risk of public use, and put those risks into context.  The City Council should also consider the benefits of advertising Manassas through the lake.

In 2011, the city spent over $625,000 to support the 150th anniversary of the Battle of First Manassas.  Manassas collected less than $50,000 in increased taxes from that event – less than 10% of its investment – but also calculated $240,800 in “publicity value” from the broadcast coverage (and additional value from print, radio and internet reports).

The city claimed the subsidy was a smart investment because “the Sesquicentennial had the potential to garner significant media coverage for the City of Manassas.”

Anglers and boaters spend money too – and regular media coverage associating Manassas with outdoor recreation might have a similar impact…

lakes

 

Update … Yes, It’s Legal to Fish in Lake Manassas – If You Can Get There from Here

September 17, 2014 — Manassas City Council Work Session planned for September 23, 6:00 pm at Manassas City Hall, 2nd floor conference room. Scheduled at the request of Councilman Marc Aveni, this work session will focus on opportunities for public access to Lake Manassas for fishing and nonmotorized boating. Be there!

June 29, 2011 — The Manassas Patch has an entertaining tale of a angler who was fishing from the shoreline of Lake Manassas, when confronted by the county police.

Key sentence: “I confirmed the next day with the  City of Manassas Division of Water Utilities that, in fact, it is not  illegal to fish from the shores of the lake, so long as you have  permission to be on the property where you are fishing.”

(The city has missed a great opportunity to open Lake Manassas to public recreational use, in partnership with George Mason University and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.  Instead, the city hired extra police and is paying lawyers to keep the lake closed, blocking public access.  Only landowners with property adjacent to the lake – and their invited guests – have the right to fish there now.)

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 2010While 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. Continue reading

Action needed to Re-Open Lake Manassas

When:   Monday, September 13 at 7:30 pm

Where:  Manassas City Hall, 9027 Center Street, Manassas

What:    Speak at Citizen’s Time to support efforts to re-open Lake Manassas and request a work session to update the public on progress. Numbers count – help jump-start City Council action to Re-Open Lake Manassas!

Absolutely cannot attend? Email Councilmen at CityClerk@ci.manassas.va.us.

The City Council is on the hook, now it’s time to reel them in. Currently the Council has put this project on the back burner — despite significant support from partners that creates an unprecedented golden opportunity to Re-Open Lake Manassas now.

  • The VA Game Dept. has committed $100,000 for a boat ramp, finger pier and parking lot as well as long-term management support.
  • The developer of the Saranac community has committed to donate land for a public access point.
  • George Mason University wants to operate a concession stand to ensure safety and education opportunities.

Lake Manassas is a significant publicly-owned resource in a densely populated area that is short on recreation opportunities.  It is a reservoir that provides water to City of Manassas residents… no different from the Occoquan Reservoir, which provides water to nearly 1.7 million Northern Virginia residents and offers unrestricted access to boaters for fishing and fun. Continue reading

Lake Manassas Public Access Update

According to today’s News & Messenger, City of Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish supports opening Lake Manassas BUT only after the City “resolves a lawsuit” aimed at opening the Lake to public access. This position begs the question… if the City does in fact support opening the Lake, why invest significant funds fighting a lawsuit aimed at doing just that?

Here’s what we know. At the City Council’s June 30 meeting, most Councilmen strongly appeared poised to close the door on discussions aimed at opening Lake Manassas to the public, despite significant support offered by partners.

The Virginia Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF) has committed $100,000 to build a boat ramp, parking lot and finger pier. They would also monitor the Lake and contribute an operations stipend to offset costs for a concession stand.

The developer of the Saranac community on Lake Manassas wants to donate land for a public access point. They have been working diligently but without success to gain access to the Lake for their development, as allowed in the property deed. Their offer to donate land confirms their preference to open the Lake through partnerships, not litigation. Continue reading

City Council worksession on Lake Manassas public access

When: Thursday, July 1, 5:30 pm
Where: Public Works and Utilities Conference Room, 8500 Public Works Drive, Manassas

The Manassas City Council has scheduled a work session to discuss progress on current efforts to open Lake Manassas to the public. The meeting agenda is online here.

The Virginia Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF) is working with the City of Manassas to find a suitable lake operator, including consideration of George Mason University and others. DGIF has budgeted money to construct a ramp and finger pier, which can move forward when an agreement is reached between all involved parties. Click here to read more…

Lake Manassas: One Step Closer to Public Access

The Manassas City Council is following through on its decision to open Lake Manassas to fishing, boating, and potentially other recreational uses.   The local fishing and conservation communities continue to apply steady pressure to open up public land for outdoor recreation.

On May 24, the city’s Public Works Director described negotiations with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) and with George Mason University (GMU) as “not fast, but deliberate.”  A more-complete report is scheduled for a work session on July 1, after a City Council organizational meeting at 5:30pm.

Manassas is working out the “how do we open the lake to public use” details.  Operations at the boat ramp could be staffed by GMU students and personnel associated with the Freedom Center.

DGIF game wardens would patrol the lake, checking fishing licenses and providing a law enforcement presence.   The state agency may be able to obtain $100-200,000 in Federal grants for constructing a boat ramp and boat rental building.  In addition, state authority would streamline the permitting process (though the city still plans to notify Prince William County of its plans).

The City Council’s willingness to open Lake Manassas stands in clear contrast to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (which has kept Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge closed since acquiring it 40 years ago) and the Prince William Board of County Supervisors (which has kept Dove’s Landing closed since acquiring it in 1996).  Those agencies have maintained a “Public Land – Keep Out” approach at parcels that could have been opened long ago – at minimal cost – for fishing, wildlife observation, hiking, and other passive recreational uses.

(Dove’s Landing is a 235-acre undeveloped property located in mid-county, along the Occoquan River, upstream from Lake Jackson.  Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge is a 300-acre parcel located on the eastern edge of Prince William, with a mile of Potomac River frontage.)

Lake Manassas – Public Access Update

May 24 — The Manassas City Council has scheduled an update on proposals to open Lake Manassas to the public for fishing and boating at tonight’s meeting, 5:30 p.m. at City Hall (click here for the agenda).

The Virginia Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF) is working with the City of Manassas to find a suitable lake operator, including consideration of George Mason University and others. DGIF has budgeted money to construct a ramp and finger pier, which can move forward when an agreement is reached between all involved parties.

This update follows the Council’s December 7 work session, where the Council voted unanimously to direct the Utilities Commission to continue negotiations with DGIF to open Lake Manassas to public use. Following the update at tonight’s meeting, the Council could schedule a new work session to review and consider more detailed information.

Lake Manassas: One Step Closer to Opening a “Premier” Public Asset to… the Public

Last night, the Manassas City Council reviewed the status of Lake Manassas in a work session.  The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) has proposed to acquire public access and build a boat ramp at the lake, using Federal Sport Fish Restoration grant money.

Lake Manassas has been closed to public use for 10 years after the city ended a franchise agreement with a private marina.  For about 30 years before the closure, the lake was one of the most popular fishing spots in Northern Virginia.   (There have gotta to be some big fish in there now… and city police do issue trespass warnings and some citations each year to the anglers who ignore the No Trespassing signs.)

At the end, acting on a motion by Marc Aveni, City Council voted unanimously to direct the Utilities Commission to continue negotiations with DGIF to open Lake Manassas to public use.  No deadlines were set, and city officials still have concerns regarding water quality, access control, and costs – but as Mayor Parrish note, “It’s a turning point.”

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