Loch Raven Reservoir trail users and the Baltimore City Department of Public Works could be nearing a compromise after months of negotiations over watershed land use, according to a county councilman and a representative for the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE).
Trail users, specifically mountain bikers, have been in talks with Public Works to reclaim a network of "legacy trails" that were closed off—only to bikers—because of fears that tire treads were causing environmental damage to the watershed.
The contentious situation has been going on for over a year, as mountain bikers have pleaded with the city for a compromise.
While Loch Raven Reservoir is under Baltimore City control, the land is located within Baltimore County. With two governing interests involved, change can be difficult.
However, Baltimore County Council is moving ahead with a resolution to expand the trail network in conjunction with MORE.
A resolution (see attached PDF file)—co-sponsored by four council members—has been drafted in support of mountain bikers and outlines intentions for expanding trail networks.
"This is something that we think is worth pursuing because apparently they are very close to an agreement," said 5th District Councilman David Marks. "In north, central Baltimore County I think there are very few recreational opportunities. I think we should be doing whatever we can to accommodate mountain bikers just as we accommodate traditional bikers, hikers, and people who just want to stroll around the reservoir.
"I think, if we can accommodate them in a way that protects the water supply then we should be doing that," he continued.
David Ferraro, president of the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts, has been in talks with the city since a highly contentious walking tour through Loch Raven that included many of the involved parties, including DPW, city, state and (the improvements)county officials and mountain bikers.
"Everybody is very optimistic—the city, people in the trail user community and now Baltimore County. Everybody is on board," Ferarro said.
The Linthicum resident declined to discuss all the details of the compromise but he did discuss some of steps MORE was taking in exchange for re-opening more trails to mountain bikers.
"We will pay for a brand new mapping and signage system at Loch Raven Reservoir. We will put in our annual budget money aside for maintenance there," he said. "We already have a couple large businesses in both the city and the county who have expressed interest in underwriting (the improvements) the reservoir. We're positioned to really make rain out there for the city and bring the resources to the reservoir."
Additionally, Ferraro said MORE pledged to work with city officials in closing trails near restricted buffer zone areas in order to limit sediment to the water supply that can damage the surrounding ecosystem.
"Are there some problems with it? Certainly. But we have the resources to go in there and make it world class. There was some butting heads. There were some issues about how to progress and we're ironing those out now and everybody has been receptive," Ferraro said.
The hope is that more people will decide to use Loch Raven for recreational purposes.
"The main thing that it's going to do for the reservoir is it's going to get people out there," Ferarro said. "When people are out there and they're experiencing the reservoir and land around it, they come to love it, they come to value it and they want to take care of it. It's going to be a vehicle to embrace it."