NPS Approves Georgetown Boathouse Zone Development Plan
On February 13, 2017, the National Park Service issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) that gives final approval to a development plan for the Georgetown nonmotorized boathouse zone that was proposed in draft form last summer. The finding text is available at: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=463&projectID=54903&documentID=77607
In announcing the finding, NPS stated that the changes envisioned by the plan “respect the historic character, natural resources and existing recreational uses of Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park . . . “ Notable for its absence is any authorization of a private boathouse within the borders of the canal park, a proposal that triggered formation of the Defenders coalition more than a decade ago. The plan represents a substantial victory for the Defenders’ principle that the C&O Canal NHP must be protected from inappropriate and intrusive development.
Background: On July 28, 2016, the National Park Service published an Environmental Assessment (EA) proposing an overall action plan for the Georgetown nonmotorized boathouse zone. The plan divides the boathouse zone into five sites, designated A through E, of which Sites A-C are within the C&O Canal NHP (see map below). Most of the additional boating access would be provided at Sites D and E, including two new boathouses downriver from Key Bridge.
On September 18, the Defenders group submitted its coalition comment on the EA. The comment welcomes the EA's recommendations to have no major construction, no new private facilities, and no trading away of NPS land within the C&O Canal NHP; however, the Defenders comment also voices concerns about the design, usage, and scale of any projects within the canal park. Examples of other comments by canal park supporters are available: see News page.
NPS responded to public comments in Appendix D of the final finding, and withdrew its proposal for a viewing gallery on the Alexandria Aqueduct Bridge. Further public involvement is promised as specific information on the projects included in the plan becomes available as they are phased in during the coming years. This will provide an opportunity for individuals and organizations to help ensure that the plan’s implementation fulfills its announced intention of respecting the canal park’s values.
Above is shown a section of the Capital Crescent Trail near Site A, an area upriver from Site B, the historic Washington Canoe Club building.
Below is part of the shoreline at Site C which lies between the Washington Canoe Club and the Alexandria Aqueduct Bridge. Sites A, B, and C are within the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Sites D and E are downriver from the C&OCNHP.