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Lake Manassas, a supplier of drinking water to much of western Prince William County, has been closed to public access for more than a decade. Photo by Prince William Conservation Alliance.

Boaters and fishers hoping to gain access to Lake Manassas will have to continue to wait.

At its Nov. 24 meeting, the Manassas City Council voted 4 to 2 against a motion by councilman Marc Aveni that would have spent $44,900 from the city’s water fund balance and created a task force to study granting public access to the lake. Aveni and councilman Ian Lovejoy voted in favor of funding the study; council members Andy Harrover, Stephen Randolph, Jonathan Way and Mark Wolfe voted against it.

Lake Manassas is a 722-acre reservoir owned by the city of Manassas and located in Prince William County. It provides water to about 130,000 residents of Manassas, Manassas Park and parts of Prince William County, Manassas city officials said.

At one time, the lake was open to the public for fishing and boating, but it has been closed to the public for more than 10 years. Over the years, some have advocated for reopening the lake.

In September, at a city council work session, the council asked city staff members to begin studying the possibility of reopening the lake to the public. In order to do that, the city staff wanted to hire a consultant and form a task force to study issues including the risk of zebra mussels, best management practices for boat access, water security issues and water quality issues, according to city background documents.

“The staff would suggest this be a first step in considering whether to open the lake,” city staff members wrote in a report prepared for the city council. “After the technical facts are provided and decisions are made, then the next phase of this would be to consider the business plan, potential partners, how actually to secure public access and various other issues involved.”

At the city council meeting, Aveni first made a motion that the vote be tabled until new council members join the city council next year. That motion was defeated 4-2.

Aveni and Lovejoy both spoke in favor of the study at the meeting, saying they thought the information was needed in order to make a decision about opening the lake.

“I guess I’m really concerned, confused about the amount of misinformation out there about Lake Manassas,” Aveni said. “This issue will come back. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year but there’s no way that a resource like that in an area like this with the sense that it makes to open it up to public use will be denied for too long. The issue will come back and we still won’t have the information.”

Lovejoy said he was concerned about the amount of money the city pays to keep the lake closed.

“What I find shocking is that over the last five years, we’ve spent a quarter of a million dollars keeping the lake shut,” Lovejoy said. “At our current path, over the next decade we’ll spend $800,000 keeping the lake shut, at roughly $80,000 a year paying to police the lake and keep it shut.”

Mayor Harry Parrish disagreed with Lovejoy”s characterization of how that money spent said that while money from the utility department does go to pay for one police officer’s salary, the officer is not solely dedicated to patrolling the lake.

Other city council members said they were concerned about the cost of the proposed study and the impact that opening the lake could have on water quality.

Harrover said he thought the council should focus first on recreation options within the city limits.

“I’ve got no beef with opening the lake, it doesn’t bother me,” said Harrover. “I just think the city needs to prioritize spending some time on a parks and recreation plan for the city.”

Aveni said he is confident that the issue of public access to Lake Manassas will continue to come back.

“You’re really kidding yourself if you think there’s not huge interest in opening that lake,” Aveni said. “I get emails from people about it every day.”

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