City seeks to allay fears on watershed biking


Mountain bicyclists are mobilizing for a public hearing tonight on management of Baltimore's municipal watersheds, concerned that environmentalists may try to ban them from trails that run through the parklands surrounding the three reservoirs that feed the city water supply.

Roger Bird, manager of a bike shop and a member of Club Mud, a mountain bike club, said he sent a thousand fliers to other shops and mountain bike clubs and is circulating petitions to oppose closing trails to cyclists.

But the city organization holding the hearing says the mountain bikers' fears are unfounded. Cathy Olson, who chairs the Watershed Management Task Force, said yesterday that there is no proposal to ban bikers from the reservoirs, blaming "misinformation" in the biking community.

Recreational use of the reservoir area is one of the two topics on the agenda at the 7 p.m. meeting at Loch Raven Senior High School, Cowpens Avenue and Cromwell Bridge Road. Ms. Olson said the task force also wants to hear public comment on forest management and its impact on the water supply.

A draft watershed management plan prepared by the city Department of Public Works says that the three reservoirs -- Loch Raven, Liberty and Prettyboy -- are losing storage capacity because of sediment buildup and pollution that affects water quality. There are many causes of the reservoirs' problems: they include storms, runoff from farms, inadequate sediment control at construction sites, overabundance of nutrients that cause algae to grow in the water, tree-cutting, littering and harmful recreational use of the watersheds.

Mr. Bird said he thinks area bikers would be willing to pay annual user fees of perhaps $20 toward maintenance of the trails or would be willing to "help with trail maintenance or prevention to keep the land in good order."

Ms. Olson said the task force will hear public comments, then prepare recommendations to the city public works department for a watershed management plan by September.

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