For some, such as Tim Valentine, of Prince William County, the marina at Lake Manassas is more than just a handy place to relax; it is a 24-year-old serious place with access to large fish.

But the future of the marina, which closed its public access last week, is uncertain, leaving residents like Valentine frustrated with the unsettled disagreements between the City of Manassas and John Ryan, who operates the marina.

Although the Lake Manassas Marina shuts its gates every October, residents are reassured that come spring, the boats and fishermen will be back on the lakeside. But the contract between the city and Ryan expired March 31, and officials from both sides haven't been able to agree on new terms. Ryan continued to operate the marina and launch ramp until the close of the season but without the protection of a contract.

"This is our only lake, and they're taking away our access," Valentine said. "It's a recurring theme in Northern Virginia that when you find something that you really like, they have to go and do something to mess it up, to take it away."

City officials, though admittedly unsure where residents will fish in the spring, are certain of this: There will be a new marina somewhere on the lake.

"We're in the process of negotiations to purchase an area . . . for a city-owned marina," said Allen Todd, the city's director of utilities, adding that final decisions should be made by December.

Until last week, the city has been leasing the easement to the marina from Ryan, who owns the land behind the marina.

Manassas officials said that the lease was not renewed because there is no guarantee that Ryan will always own the easement and that he might sell the land or not bequeath it to the city after his death.

Ryan said that he is disappointed the city chose to not renew the lease and that he thinks Manassas "is making a big mistake."

"I have no idea why the city wants to close it like this," he said.

Ryan said he is owed $30,000 for construction on the marina; Todd said "everything has been taken care of." He declined to explain further.

Charles Jamison, an attorney with Smith and Davenport who is representing Manassas, said that a check for $16,000 was mailed to Ryan at the first of the month for services and that nothing else is owed.

"I disagree with what they say is outstanding," Jamison said.

Valentine said he hopes the city finds a suitable area to build a new marina, adding that he would also like to see more than one access area to the lake.

"This is just a let-down, and I hope something works out," Valentine said. "It's something I really enjoy, and I know other people really feel the same way. Hopefully people will start talking about it, and the city will work to get something built."