WSSC proposes new rules for watershed use

Correction: Because of incorrect information from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, the article about proposed changes in recreational use of the Rocky Gorge and Triadelphia reservoir areas misstated the dates when they would be open. Under the WSSC’s proposal, the areas would be open from March 15 through Nov. 30, not from March 15 through Nov. 15. This version has been corrected.

January 26, 2013

Horseback riders, fishing enthusiasts, boaters and others who use the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission’s two Patuxent River reservoirs and the surrounding woods soon will face new rules governing the reservoirs’ recreational use.

The utility is considering the public input it received on proposed rules that WSSC officials say are needed to better protect suburban Maryland’s drinking water supply from pollution, vandalism and erosion.

Proposed changes that have drawn the most attention would require horseback riders to ensure that all horse droppings end up in a trash can. Riding would be allowed to resume on designated trails. The issue sparked an outcry in the local equestrian community in May 2011 after WSSC suddenly forbade trail riding in the woods surrounding the reservoirs and limited it to a perimeter road.

Under the proposal, nearby stables that use the trails would be charged a new $250 annual fee for a permit, and adjacent landowners using the horse trails would have to buy an $80 annual permit.

Other seasonal permits would increase to $70 from $60, and single-day permits would increase to $6 from $5. A new picnic fee also is proposed. It would vary by the group’s size, but would be $6 for up to five people.


WSSC’s proposed change that has drawn the most attention would require horseback riders to ensure that all horse droppings ended up in a trash can. Riding would be allowed to resume on designated trails. (Bruce Schreiner/AP)

WSSC spokesman I.J. Hudson said revenues from the additional fees would be used to better maintain the areas, including more litter cleanup.

WSSC also has proposed allowing hiking for the first time on designated trails, and access to the areas surrounding Rocky Gorge Reservoir and Triadelphia Reservoir would be extended by 30 days and run from March 15 through Nov. 30.

Final rules, which could change after consideration of the public comments, will be in place by March, Hudson said.

Katherine Shaver is a transportation and development reporter. She joined The Washington Post in 1997 and has covered crime, courts, education and local government but most prefers writing about how people get — or don’t get — around the Washington region.
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