|Loudoun Water general manager Fred Jennings recently defended his organization’s decision to halt public access on the Beaverdam Reservoir, which for years has been a recreational gathering place for local teens and families. Photo Courtesy/Stone Bridge Rowing Club|
Loudoun Water's chief has conceded that his organization's handling of the recent Beaverdam Creek Reservoir's closure was a poor practice in public relations, but he maintained shutting down public access to the 600-acre reservoir was the right move.
Addressing Loudoun's Board of Supervisors June 3, Fred Jennings, the new general manager for Loudoun Water, said his operation couldn't afford the risk associated with managing the newly-acquired reservoir – a reservoir he says was severely neglected by its previous operator, the City of Fairfax.
"The City of Fairfax over its 40-plus years of ownership did not manage Beaverdam nor Goose Creek Reservoirs as recreational assets. In fact, they didn't manage them really at all,” Jennings said. “They kind of abdicated any responsibility.”
Beaverdam “has become a venue for underage partying and drinking,” Jennings said. “There is private encroachments, there's garbage dumping, there have been five drownings, there's extensive underage drinking – people refer to it as 'party central' – there's been MS-17 gang activity.”
Loudoun Water purchased the Beaverdam Creek Reservoir and surrounding land, the Goose Creek Reservoir, Goose Creek Water Treatment Plant and the water transmission pipeline along the W&OD Trail to the Fairfax County line in January as part of a $30 million deal with the City of Fairfax.
The purchase was made as “a significant capital commitment to upgrade the Beaverdam Creek Reservoir to meet the drinking water supply needs of Loudoun Water customers well into the future,” Jennings said at the time of the transaction.
According to Loudoun Water, the facilities need significant renovations to meet the Virginia dam safety design and regulatory criteria as well as address safety and land use management issues. The assessment, inspection, planning, design, permitting, construction and acceptance activities associated with the renovation are expected to be completed by late 2018.
For weeks Loudoun's supervisors have been inundated with complaints about the abrupt nature of the reservoir's closing. Several members of the public spoke to that point June 3.
“I'm frustrated that Loudoun Water is not even making an effort to accommodate the local residents who use and enjoy the reservoir,” said Tony Nedinsky. “It's clear that there's a compromise that can be made. Loudoun Water needs to do a better job and make an effort to accommodate the public.”
“There are ways to solve this. It's got to be a can-do attitude,” said Mike Germinario, an Ashburn resident who used Beaverdam and surrounding property with his kids. Germinario suggested launching a public-private partnership to manage the recreational aspect of the dam and reservoir.
Supervisors have stressed that they have no authority over Loudoun Water, a political subdivision of the state, beyond tapping members for its board.
For his part, Jennings said he's “not going to argue against the fact [the closure] could've been handled differently.” He appeared open to finding a solution that would allow public access in some fashion.
Loudoun Rowing, a member-based group that consults local governments and advocates on behalf of rowers, is the only organization that was granted continued recreational access to the reservoir, this because the group had an ongoing agreement with the City of Fairfax to use the property.