Nearly 50 Beaverdam Creek Reservoir stakeholders flooded the chief executive of Loudoun Water with complaints and borderline insults at a Wednesday community information meeting regarding the future use of the reservoir property, which was closed to the public in April.
The informational meeting did not provide a clear plan moving forward to allow some level of public use at the reservoir, but Loudoun Water CEO Fred Jennings pledged his organization is willing to consider what may be appropriate public uses.
The ultimate decision will fall in the hands of Loudoun Water's nine-member board of directors, which is appointed by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.
For years the reservoir has been a favorite recreational hangout for locals who would use the grounds for hiking, fishing, boating, paddling and other aquatic activities. But the property has also become a place where people come to drink beer, party and vandalize some of the structures, and it was this that led the Loudoun Water Board of Drectors to quickly close off public access after Loudoun Water acquired the grounds from Fairfax City in January.
Loudoun Water officials have maintained closing the reservoir to the public was necessary to limit liability and risk while the water authority continues to examine and plan for the future of the property.
The public access prohibition has outraged hundreds of Loudounders. More than 1,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org to have the reservoir re-opened to the public. Some of those petitioners spoke at Wednesday night's meeting at Stone Hill Middle School in southern Ashburn.
Speakers expressed that the people who have been denied access are those who look after the acreage, clean up trash and use the property. Even following the closure, the speakers pointed out, there have been instances of vandalism.
Tim Scheuerman , a representative of the Loudoun Paddlers Association, questioned why Loudoun Water awarded access to one organization, Loudoun Rowing, and no others. Scheuerman said the paddlers association has worked to set up a similar organization and operational standards as Loudoun Rowing, yet not been afforded the same opportunity.
Other members of the public suggested Loudoun Water work with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to strike a recreational use agreement.
Jennings was short on specifics in many of his responses Wednesday night.
Scheuerman insisted that representatives of Loudoun Water have “stonewalled” anybody looking to find a middle ground for some level of access to the property.
“With Supervisor [Janet] Clarke, Supervisor [Shawn] Williams, and a community of well-informed citizens, we hit Loudoun Water's Fred Jennings with tough questions on their bumbled closing of Beaverdam Reservoir,” Scheuerman noted last night on the Change.org petition page. “I believe our points were loudly heard and Loudoun Water sees us as more than just a few disgruntled citizens.”
One member of the public said Loudoun Water's closing of the dam was "a scam," while another painted the independent political subdivision as a greedy business.
Jennings, who opened the meeting with a presentation and then took questions from the at times impatient crowd, never guaranteed there would be a short-term solution to providing some level of recreational use.
The primary purpose of Loudoun Water, Jennings stressed, is to provide drinking water. Jennings said Loudoun Water is in the process of developing a comprehensive plan for utilizing the reservoir – a process that will involve community input and an attempt to allow some form of public access. But until that plan is complete, or at least near complete, it appears unlikely any agreement with paddlers, fishermen or any member of the public for access will be granted.
The culmination of that plan may not come until as late as 2018, Jennings said.
Only one member of the Loudoun Water Board of Directors, which made the decision to close access, was in attendance for the meeting.
As Scheuerman noted, Loudoun County Supervisors Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) and Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) were on hand.
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.