Last Sunday morning, dozens of water enthusiasts arrived at a cramped parking lot, traveling solo or in small groups. They unloaded brightly colored kayaks, paddle boards and canoes from their vehicles and pushed off from a small incline into a shimmering, 600-acre body of water.
A fisherman cast his line from the shore nearby, while another dropped his line from a boat a few hundred yards away. A great blue heron flew back and forth, close to the surface, scanning for food and occasionally landing on the shore to take in the scene.
The tranquility at Beaverdam Reservoir was striking, in part because it is such a short distance from the traffic and bustle of Ashburn. Because the reservoir supplies drinking water for thousands of Loudoun residents, the scene was undisturbed by the sounds of gas-powered watercraft, which are prohibited to protect the water quality.
A few days earlier, Manning had begun to emerge from a deep, six-month postpartum depression. Embarking on a year of hikes, she said, helped her to overcome that and to reconnect with family members and friends in ways she had never expected.
The opening was the culmination of a decades-long process that included public meetings, shifting plans for the facility, an appeal by the developer and rulings by the county’s zoning administrator.
The indoor facility has drawn criticism because of its size and operational costs. With four 25-yard lap lanes, it will provide space for swim team practices but is too small to host meets. The facility was built with private funds, but it will cost the county about $400,000 annually to operate. About one-third of the cost will be recovered by user fees in the first year, county officials said.