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City reservoir to balance recreation, water quality
Canoes are shown at the Beaver Creek Reservoir. Canoes now will be available to rent at the reservoir as part of an effort to enhance recreation and leisure activities there. Since too many people utilizing the reservoir may harm water quality, officials are seeking to balance environmental needs with recreational ones. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
The city of Martinsville is making changes at the Beaver Creek Reservoir to make it easier for people to spend leisure time there.
But that does not necessarily mean the city wants to greatly increase the number of people visiting the man-made lake, which provides drinking water to city residents. Too many visitors could hurt water quality, officials have said.
The city allows people to use the reservoir, located near Patrick Henry Community College, for recreation including fishing, boating and picnicking. Yet it must ensure water in the reservoir meets federal and state standards.
Starting July 1, four part-time employees will staff the reservoir. They will replace a full-time warden whose job is being eliminated, according to Andy Lash, the city’s water resources superintendent.
With the part-timers, an employee can be on duty at all times when the reservoir is open, from sunrise to sunset, he said.
The warden worked seven days a week but only five or six hours a day, and “a lot of people didn’t understand” that he was not always on duty, Lash said.
Martinsville police will patrol the reservoir and issue citations to people who break the rules, he said. That had been one of the warden’s duties.
Having more staff members will allow picnic shelter and canoe rentals to be taken at the reservoir, Lash said.
It costs $30 to rent a picnic shelter. The city is reducing the fee for renting a canoe from $30 to $10 a day. Lash said he hopes the lower fee, as well as taking rentals at the reservoir, will encourage canoe use.
Right now, anyone wanting to use a picnic shelter or a canoe must rent one at the treasurer’s office in the municipal building uptown.
Canoes are kept at the reservoir, but people wanting to use them must first stop by the Martinsville Parks & Recreation Department on Indian Trail to get paddles and lifejackets, and then go to the municipal building to pay the fee before going to the reservoir. Afterward, they must return the paddles and lifejackets to the parks and recreation department.
Because the treasurer’s office is closed Saturdays and Sundays, it basically is impossible to rent canoes and picnic shelters on weekends, City Manager Leon Towarnicki said.
It will be simpler to pay rental fees, pick up the canoeing gear and return it, all at the reservoir, he said.
Recently, Martinsville City Council approved waiving boating fees for active, retired and disabled military veterans visiting the reservoir to show the city’s appreciation for their sacrifices and dedication to serving their country.
The city generally charges $3 for a one-day boating permit and $15 for an annual permit. So far, the veteran’s discount does not seem to have spurred many more people to visit the reservoir, Lash said.
About 2 million gallons of water are taken from the reservoir daily to meet city residents’ and businesses’ needs. That is down from about 6 million gallons a day several decades ago when the city had more industries, according to Lash.
To ensure the water remains safe for drinking, boats with gasoline-powered motors are not permitted on the reservoir. Pets are prohibited from entering the water, and swimming and wading are not allowed, posted signs show.
Due to such restrictions, Towarnicki said he does not think the reservoir will ever be as popular of a recreational attraction as Philpott Lake or Fairy Stone State Park, although it is popular.
As far as he and Lash know, no count of reservoir visitors is kept.
Yet “quite a few people come there,” especially to fish, Towarnicki said. He mentioned that during the summer, people are there late into the evening casting their lines.
People should be able to use the reservoir for leisure purposes “as long as they are not hurting anything,” Lash said.
But “I don’t want anything to mess up the water quality,” he emphasized. “My (constant) goal is to make the water safe for consumption.”
Lash noted that water in the reservoir routinely passes tests to ensure its quality.
Visitation at the reservoir would need to be restricted if there is significant erosion of surrounding land or if costs to maintain the lake and the land — including walking trails — get to be more than the city can afford, he said.
To help maintain the water quality, a dock will be installed next to the boat ramp to keep people out of the water as they enter and exit boats, officials said. An existing dock is not near the ramp.