“He is a new commissioner and very forthcoming; he has some ideas and how maybe we can work towards a common goal. As far as what exactly he can do for us, I’m not sure we’re hoping he can be the point person to get this conversation started," said Stephanie Brennan, a member of Friends of Liberty Reservoir.
Going into the meeting, Brennan said, the group was hoping to get Rothstein’s support “and then give him the information he needs to go to Baltimore City’s Department of Public Works and start the process of getting us access, either via permits, allowing us to do our ultimate goal would be help maintain the trails for the Department of Public Works. Whether that be liability waivers, you know, chainsaw classes, whatever we need to do.”
Rothstein made it clear that he doesn’t have all the answers but he still wants to help.
“The challenge is I don’t have a lot of answers for you, it really is a lesson learned for me and then take that information and then move forward,” he said. “I inherited this specific issue when I was elected as commissioner and when I inherit something like this, I then own it. So, now that I own it, I want to figure out what’s the best approach in taking care of our community.”
Rothstein also said he wanted them to understand that safety is a huge factor for not only Baltimore but also for the Baltimore Environmental Police because they would be held accountable if the Friends of Liberty Reservoir maintained the trails themselves.
At the meeting, Rothstein expressed that he had a lot of things going on as a commissioner but he would still keep this issue as a priority.
“It is not my highest priority,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s not a priority and that’s why I’m here. But you have to understand where it is now, with all those other things going on. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be shelved and I’m not going to do anything. No, probably deal with this this weekend and next week."
Audience members at the meeting highlighted their concerns about not knowing for certain where they could or could not go in the reservoir.
“What I noticed about these endeavors is that we’re not getting good communication,” said Carolann Sharpe, a member of Friends of Liberty Reservoir and the Woodbine-based Trail Riders of Today. “You don’t tell me to go there, I’m not going there. Currently, I don’t know where not to go.”
Rothstein responded to this issue with the idea of changing some rules.
“Some of it’s just we don’t know, we don’t know what the rules are,” he said. “So, my intent is to kind of guide them and if we can build exceptions or bill changes to the rule and regulation and process and procedures, we’re going to do that.”
The commissioner also agreed to help the Friends of Liberty Reservoir work with Baltimore to produce a map to put on their website so people can know where they can and can’t be.
The Friends of Liberty Reservoir organization appeared pleased with Rothstein agreeing to advocate for them even though he didn’t give a specific timeline of when things would be done.
“I know it’s going to be a long process and there’s a lot of moving parts,” Brennan said. “As long as the conversation stays open and we continue to move forward, whatever speed that is.”