Critics of logging near the Baltimore region's drinking-water supply and mountain biking enthusiasts turned out in force last night for a public meeting on the uses of land surrounding reservoirs in Baltimore and Carroll counties.
More than 300 people converged on Loch Raven High School to tell a city task force how 17,580 acres of city-owned land around Loch Raven, Liberty and Prettyboy reservoirs should be managed.
The task force plans to consider public views in recommending to city officials whether to resume timber sales and how to continue recreational activities at the reservoirs, which supply drinking water to 1.6 million residents of the city and parts of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll and Howard counties.
There has been logging around the reservoirs since 1919, but city officials imposed a two-year moratorium on timber sales last year after environmentalists and residents said timbering practices threatened water quality, rare plants and birds and conflicted with recreation.
Many of those attending the meeting urged the city not to resume timber sales, which have earned the city about $274,000 a year.
A large contingent of mountain biking enthusiasts came to defend their use of the trails, apparently drawn by erroneous information that the panel was weighing a ban on their activity.
Bikers and others who use the land, including horseback riders, boaters, hikers and skeet shooters, agreed their hobbies pose little threat to the reservoirs. But they joined in urging officials to keep out all-terrain vehicles and motor bikes.
A draft watershed management plan produced by city public works officials says the greatest threats to the area's water supply come from sediment and from an overabundance of nutrient runoff.
City officials said they did not know how much logging and recreation contributes to those problems.
The task force plans to make its recommendations by fall.