Most members of the public will have to pay more for recreational activities on Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission property, but the water and sewer utility has rolled back some of its plans for new restrictions as it tries to safeguard the watershed around its reservoirs.
A set of regulations, to take effect when the horseback riding trails, boat ramps and areas for fishing, picnicking, hiking and birdwatching open March 15, reflects both recommendations from the public and findings from a consulting firm’s study of areas around the WSSC’s T. Howard Duckett Reservoir near Laurel and Triadelphia Reservoir near Brighton.
Officials eliminated a provision that would have required horseback riders to pack out manure their mounts drop on the trail, as well as another that would have begun charging people ages 65 and over for watershed-use permits that individuals must buy to use recreational facilities on WSSC property.
The WSSC raised the price of the use permits from $60 to $70 for the season and expanded the season by 30 days — from March 15 through Nov. 30.
One-day use permits are available at $6.
“I’m very pleased that they took out the senior fee and packing out horse droppings,” said Debby Poole, who owns a boarding stable. With her clients, she enjoys riding the WSSC trails.
Poole said she agrees with the requirement in place that riders remove horse droppings from parking lots and paved roads.
But Poole and some other horseback riders remain concerned about a provision that prohibits trimming and trail clearing, because they worry it will mean they cannot remove branches or fallen trees that are a hazard for horses and riders.
WSSC spokesman I.J. Hudson said the regulations are meant to stop people from “cutting new unauthorized trails to join the miles of unauthorized trails that our consultant found in the study. Two senior WSSC officials have told trail advocates to use “common sense” to trim branches that could hit horses and riders on the trail, Hudson said.
Poole said riders still “need something in writing that says trimming is allowed for general trail maintenance.”
Riders — along with hikers and birdwatchers who are being allowed, for the first time, to use designated WSSC trails — are waiting to see where they will be allowed to go.
Horseback riders are hoping to return to established trails they were moved from two years ago, when the utility rerouted them to poorly maintained vehicle access roads farther from the reservoirs.
Hudson said the utility is assessing which trails to open and will mark those trails before the season begins March 15.
The new regulations are posted on the WSSC website at wsscwater.com.
Under the new regulations, adjacent landowners and boarding stables that want to access WSSC trails from their own property must pay special fees and enter an agreement with the utility for direct access, in addition to ensuring that each user has an individual permit.