Since taking office, I have worked with my colleagues to expand Baltimore County’s bicycling network. Not only do trails and bicycle routes promote physical fitness, but they can boost local businesses; simply look at the activity on the Northern Central Railroad Trail on a sunny weekend.
While I have enjoyed bicycling since my days as a Boy Scout, I never knew much until recently about mountain biking, which involves off-road riding, often over rough terrain. In fact, mountain biking is a growing sport throughout the United States. In our region, thousands of mountain bikers belong to the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts, a nonprofit organization that maintains more than 250 miles of trails in 25 state and county parks.
MORE has been working to expand the trail network in Loch Raven Reservoir, the largest undeveloped area in the urbanized part of Baltimore County. No one disputes that the reservoir’s primary purpose is to supply water to hundreds of thousands of residents in the Baltimore region. But the reservoir is also a place for recreation and peace of mind to those same residents.
Unfortunately, the mountain biking community is at an impasse with Baltimore City, which owns and maintains the reservoir. Earlier this year, the Baltimore County Council passed a resolution urging the two parties to reach an agreement in a way that would still protect the reservoir’s water quality. I then heard that certain city officials refused to budge because they interpreted the county’s environmental ordinance as an obstacle. With this in mind, I have now introduced a bill that would clearly give the city the authority to allow mountain biking within the reservoir’s forest buffer.
For me, this impasse is frustrating on many levels. First, there must be a way to expand the trail network without damaging the integrity of the reservoir’s water supply. Loch Raven Reservoir is such an important asset for Baltimore County residents, particularly in the densely-populated York Road corridor.
Second, the city is missing an opportunity to engage an organization like MORE, which has the volunteer and financial capacity to improve the reservoir. Several weeks ago, Senator Jim Brochin and I joined dozens of volunteers at the organization’s “Clean Stream” event. This organization includes many professionals who could raise private sector funds for environmental enhancements, signage, and other improvements.
But most importantly, at a time when Baltimore City is garnering headlines for bungling our water bills, this is an opportunity to make a difference for the thousands of Baltimore Countians who value the Loch Raven Reservoir. Instead, all we hear is no, no, no—and that’s unfortunate.