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March 16, 2021 · OPINION

Warrenton should allow fishing at reservoir

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By Evan Newman

I am a town resident and a bass fishing enthusiast, a novice who gets “skunked” on the water as often as I have great days — but an enthusiast just the same.

Part of the reason for those difficult outings, however, is the limited amount of public fishing waters in this region. For the abundance of ponds and small lakes in Fauquier County, the vast majority of them are private. And unlike days gone by, people tend to be more private and less accommodating to strangers coming onto their land to fish.

Fair enough. But, we are left to either grovel at strangers’ doorsteps for permission or to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other frustrated anglers, fishing in over-pressured lakes and ponds. It’s easy to spend hours without a bite, only because the pond has just been overfished.

Which brings me to the Warrenton Reservoir, a gorgeous body of water within walking distance of my house. It shimmers through the trees, whispering my name as I head off to work each morning. The fact is, this is one of our town’s most precious commodities. Not only as a source for clean water, but also for its recreational value.

In years past, there have been efforts to allow taxpaying citizens of this town to use it for its recreational benefits. Understandably, a handful of neighbors objected and for valid reasons — pollution potential, noise and so forth. However, the reality of it is, this lake does not belong to them.

Apart from general courtesy, the town really does not owe them this sort of exclusive ownership to these waters. We all pay for it, and in fairness to the other 98 percent of the town residents, we deserve to be able to enjoy it. It’s entirely too beautiful to sit, tucked away from the public.

If you look at most of the other communities in the state, very few are restricted from using their local reservoirs for recreation. Most public reservoirs are touted as a highlight of their community. Walking trails, picnic areas and, of course, fishing, are staples for local residents.

In Warrenton, however, we seem to diametrically oppose any and everything that could possibly bring enjoyment or a recreational element to the town. Bowling alleys, movie theatres, etc., all seem to be frowned upon. That, in turn, drives all of our recreational dollars to Prince William and Culpepper counties.

In this case, we have this existing jewel, for positive community use. It would cost the town very little to enhance and open it up. A small fee could even be charged for out-of-county visitors, similar to Crockett Park. Certainly, some rules could be put in place, to minimize litter and noise.

But to put some mulch trails, picnic tables, a playground and a parking lot would absolutely not be an unreasonable intrusion. To not allow these things, for the sake of honoring a few people’s personal preferences, is the greater intrusion.

Let the citizens of this town use the Warrenton Reservoir. At least let us fish there. If neighbors find a few anglers quietly fishing away at sunrise intrusive or offensive, then we’ve got a much bigger problem as a society.

Respectfully, it’s not their lake. It’s ours.
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