NPS Releases Georgetown Boathouse Zone Study
Comments Due May 24
Public Meeting May 22
National Park Service released its Feasibility Study to Implement a Non-motorized Boathouse Zone Along the Georgetown Waterfront April 19. The study is open for public comment until May 24. NPS will hold a public information meeting May 22.
The study examined the potential implementation of a non-motorized boathouse zone on the shore along the Potomac River waterfront in Georgetown. The NPS examined the structures and facilities related to non-motorized boat usage, including rowing, canoeing and kayaking, that can be accommodated within this zone (project area), as well as other uses. You can download a copy of the document and submit comments at the project website, http://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectId=39727.
Park service representatives will present the study's findings at the public meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 22 in the large meeting room at the West End Library, 1101 24th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20037. NPS staff will be on hand to answer questions.
The C&O Canal Association is keenly interested in the study, because the association opposes the construction of a massive private boathouse within the C&O Canal National Historical Park. The study recognizes the problems with construction of a boathouse upstream from the Washington Canoe Club, but presents development options that include such a building and also a large boat storage structure in an area downstream from the club that is also within the C&O Canal NHP.
The association urges it members to take advantage of the opportunity to comment to ensure their voice is heard as NPS develops its plans. Key points to remember include:
- The part of the C&O Canal NHP included in the feasibility study is rich in historical assets, including the towpath and the ruins of the Alexandria Aqueduct.
- This portion of the canal park is environmentally vulnerable and includes scenic wooded shoreline that must be preserved.
- This part of the canal park is extremely popular but very narrow, presenting a danger of crowding along the canal towpath and Capital Crescent Trail.
- Areas downriver from the canal park are entirely suitable for new boating-related structures and afford better vehicular access.
- The C&O Canal National Historical Park belongs to the whole people, not private interests.
The study began over a year ago. On December 13, 2011, NPS held an open house to introduce the public to the feasibility study. Speakers included: Peter May, Associate Regional Director of the National Capital Region; Tara Morrison, Superintendent of Rock Creek Park; Kevin Brandt, Superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historical Park; and members of the Louis Berger Group consulting firm. The aim of the feasibility project was described as studying ways to enhance river access for user groups and determining what facilities can be accommodated in the zone.
The zone under study includes land on both sides of Key Bridge. It extends upriver from the bridge for approximately 1,200 feet, including parts of the C&O Canal NHP upriver from the Alexandria Aqueduct ruins and also upriver from the Washington Canoe Club. The zone also includes private and public properties near Key Bridge, but it stops at 34th Street at the border of the new Georgetown Waterfront Park. It does not include that park, any land further downriver, or any part of the Virginia shore.
During January and February 2012, NPS conducted focus group meetings with stakeholder organizations such as user groups, universities, and citizens associations, including C&OCA. The agency then held a public workshop on March 3, 2012 to gather more public input and identify possible solutions.
The feasibility study is intended to assist future NPS decisions that may include development or improvement of NPS facilities, and/or further actions under laws governing environmental planning and historical protection. At this time, the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed Georgetown University boathouse within the present borders of the C&O Canal NHP is on hold. However, the EIS may be reopened in the future and may still result in a massive private structure intruding on the canal park.
C&OCA hopes that the boathouse zone feasibility study will aid in a satisfactory resolution of the long boathouse controversy and that boating access in Georgetown can be enhanced in appropriate ways. Our overriding mission is to protect the historic, scenic, and natural value of the C&O Canal National Historical Park.
Background information on boathouse issue is contained in an article on this website and on the website of the Defenders of Potomac River Parkland, a coalition of organizations of which C&OCA is a member.