NPS Feasibility Study on Georgetown Boathouse Zone: An Overview (last updated May 16, 2013)
Current Status: The National Park Service has released its Georgetown boathouse zone feasibility study. The public comment period has been extended until May 24, 2013, instead of the May 20 end date previously announced. NPS will also hold an informational open house meeting on May 22. The study is an opportunity to move toward suitable plans for improved river access for boaters in the area, without intrusive private construction within the C&O Canal National Historical Park.
It is important that supporters of the canal park submit their comments on the study's content. See maps and scenarios for essential points and the full study at the NPS project website.
Background: On December 13, 2011, NPS held a public meeting on a study of the feasibility of a non-motorized boathouse zone along a portion of the Georgetown waterfront.
The meeting included a slide presentation and remarks by: Peter May, Associate Regional Director of NPS' 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, a consulting firm assisting the feasibility study.
Purpose: The focus of the study was described as examining ways to enhance river access for user groups and determining what facilities can be accommodated in the zone under consideration.
Area of the zone: From Key Bridge, the zone extends upriver for 1,200 feet (a figure that NPS described as approximate). It therefore includes important areas of the C&O Canal NHP on both sides of the Washington Canoe Club. The zone also includes private and public properties beneath and near Key Bridge on both sides. It is bounded on the east by the new Georgetown Waterfront Park, which is excluded. The zone does not include any land or facility further downriver, or the Virginia shore of the Potomac. (See map.)
Public input: NPS held stakeholder meetings in January and February of 2012 with organizations such as user groups, universities, and citizens associations. The agency then conducted a public workshop on March 3 at which possible scenarios were developed and discussed. NPS then accepted written public comment through March 30, 2012. Public input on the published study is now being received during a comment period that ends on May 20, 2013. Comments will be published as an appendix to the final study and are an important way to voice support for protecting the C&O Canal NHP: see Take Action.
Study Outcome: The study is described as providing a foundation for future NPS decisions. These may include possible development or improvement of NPS facilities and/or further planning or compliance under environmental legislation, such as preparation of an Environmental Impact Study (EIS). The existing EIS on the massive Georgetown University boathouse proposed for a site within the borders of the C&O Canal NHP is on hold.
Conclusion: The zone feasibility study may aid in a satisfactory resolution of the longstanding boathouse controversy. Intrusive private development within the C&O Canal National Historical Park must be prevented, but other solutions are available. All who support the broad public interest in maintaining the historical and natural assets of the C&O Canal NHP are urged to express their views on the feasibility study.