Equestrian questions WSSC horse-trail restrictions

Letters

July 13, 2011

Equestrian questions WSSC horse-trail restrictions

For decades, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission has been a world-class institution, recognized for sound science and public caring. And for decades, WSSC generously let equestrians enjoy their Rocky Gorge Equestrian Trail, which is environmentally contoured, minimally eroding and generally far from the water.

The trail was partly designed by WSSC's previous watershed experts (including Paul Hancock, Butch Abbott and Latty Iager) and dedicated by Richard Hocevar (namesake of WSSC's building).

For decades, equestrians worked productively with WSSC, being the reservoir's "eyes-and-ears," including discovering and pursuing massive sediment flow from a SHA project, for which the Maryland Department of the Environment estimated equestrian vigilance averted over 10,000 cubic yards of sediment.

Yet WSSC has now banned riding this long-term, environmentally sound trail, claiming horse waste and sediment running off the trail make the reservoir water harder to treat. Notably, WSSC's previous Environmental Advisory Committee reported important calculations showing much less than 1/10,000 of the reservoir's sediment could possibly come from the equestrian trail. Similar valid calculations show much less than 1/1,000 of the reservoir's animal waste could possibly come from this equestrian use (relative to all the deer, etc.).

WSSC Public Affairs Manager John White has claimed closing this trail is "all about protecting the water," yet no quantitative basis argues equestrian use appreciably affects inflow. There is no rational basis for this closing.

See FaceBook Group "Save the WSSC horse trail" for more information.

Barbara Sollner-Webb

Laurel

Barbara Sollner-Webb is vice-president of the West Laurel Civic Association, a member of the state's Patuxent River Commission and a former member of WSSC's Environmental Advisory Committee.

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