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Mountain Bikers Complain At City Hall About Loch Raven Policy

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A battle over biking brings controversy to Loch Raven Reservoir and now to City Hall.

As Derek Valcourt explains, mountain bikers say they aren't getting a fair ride from the city when it comes to where they can wheel.

Single-track riding---a popular sport mountain bikers have enjoyed for years---on 37 miles of trails through the woods along the Loch Raven Reservoir is great for father and son Jay and Bo Batema.

"Besides the challenge of the sport, it's also very surreal to be out there and enjoying the scenery," Batema said.

But it's the water that serves 1.8 million people that the city's Department of Public Works worries about.  As the land managers, they're charged with enforcing watershed regulations to protect the water quality. Recently, they've been issuing warnings and even citations to mountain bikers riding trails designated off-limits.

"A lot of those trails are within the buffer zones or on really steep grades that we are required by law to limit access to," said Celeste Amato, DPW.

Right now, mountain biking is restricted to emergency roads through the reservoir.  They're wide enough for vehicles to get through and not very fun for bikers.

Biking enthusiasts took their complaints to City Hall Wednesday, arguing a DPW proposal to allow for a few additional single track trails doesn't go far enough.  Bikers want access to most of the narrow trails they've used for decades.  They're willing to pay for it and willing to help take care of the land.

"Mountain bikers are offering free trained maintenance to a city that's dying for help and that's being turned away," said Penny Troutner.

DPW says they have no choice and protecting water quality comes first.

"And we certainly aren't going to be promoting a lot of increased access in those critical areas because we are required to protect those areas under current law," Amato said.

It's an uphill battle for bikers, who say the ride is worth it.

Dozens of mountain bikers Wednesday gave an earful to City Council members who say they'll hold more meetings on the matter in the future, but right now, it's unclear if anything will change.

Currently, there are only 12 miles of trails mountain bikers can ride in the lands around Loch Raven.

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