The mountain biking community turned out in force at the Baltimore County Council's work session Tuesday to thank council members for a resolution that encourages compromise on use of the unsanctioned Loch Raven Reservoir trail network.
But despite support for the measure — which is sponsored by all seven council members and is expected to pass Monday — the issue is far from resolved.
"I'd say it's farther along than it ever was," said Dave Ferraro, president of Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts (MORE), a mountain biking advocacy group.
But he added, "I wouldn't say it's close, because my constituency — trail users — have been using trails out there for 30 years. "There's this legacy network that's basically being shut down.
"What we're trying to find is where the happy medium is. Is it close? I'd say it's starting to get there, but we're not there yet."
Ferarro said the highly publicized tug-of-war between State Sen. Jim Brochin of Towson and city officials, which included a muddy October hike of the trail network, gave the issue traction and brought MORE back to the table with the Baltimore City, which owns and operates the reservoir.
Having just taken over as MORE president in January, Amato has had a few conversations with city officials, including Department of Public Works spokeswoman Celeste Amato.
Amato said Ferraro is "bringing a new attitude to the discussion that's really helpful."
"He seems to be very willing to understand that this is a very special place that has a lot of restrictions, and we need to work together to live between those restrictions," Amato said. "There's no getting around the fact that this is a drinking water reservoir, and we're committed to protecting it."
Different paths to change
Because the city-owned reservoir is located in Baltimore County, the city is charged with enforcing the county's environmental code, which places a 100-foot buffer around the water.
That ordinance has always been in place, but city watershed rangers recently drew the ire of the mountain biking community for ticketing riders on the unsanctioned trail network at the reservoir.
Ferraro said he understood that through its resolution, the council's intention is to "voice … support for an expansion of the trail system."
"We're thrilled that they did it," he said. "It's been great for us, and it certainly legitimizes what we want to do out there."
But ultimately, Brochin believes a change to the county's buffer-zone ordinance would be the most effective course of action by the council.
The state senator, a Democrat who represents the 42nd District, said a non-binding resolution "is not going to get us anywhere," and that city officials want something binding — such as a change to the governing ordinance.
"That's what David (Marks) and Todd Huff have to do," Brochin said. "The question is can you get four votes on that council? They're going to have to take a chance, work hard, lobby and risk losing in order to win something big.
"To say 'we're not going to do that, but we're going to pass a resolution,' that's not going to get you anywhere," Brochin said. "This is about changing public policy, and that's doable, but you have to take some risks."
Ferraro agreed that the buffer zone might be a sticking point for the city, saying its position on the ordinance is clear.
Crystal clear authority