Public Input Sought for Boathouse Locations

by Katie Pyzyk July 5, 2012 at 11:45 am 7,095 58 Comments

As part of an ongoing environmental impact statement (EIS), the National Park Service is now accepting public input on a proposed boathouse along the Arlington shoreline.

Because all of Arlington’s land along the Potomac River is actually NPS property, the EIS is mandatory by law. It formally began earlier this year, and assesses the impact a boathouse for non-motorized crafts would have on the natural and cultural resources in the area.

During the public comment portion, which began this week, residents are asked to examine the options in the proposal and voice suggestions or concerns.

There are four possible sites included in the proposal. Two options involve building the boathouse near the Key Bridge in Rosslyn, and another looks at a space near Gravelly Point. One alternative examines Daingerfield Island, which is in Alexandria. The final option is to take no action, meaning no boathouse would be constructed.

The proposal includes a facility with indoor space for storing equipment, training areas and floating docks. The plan has been in the works for years to ease the burden on boathouses in Alexandria and Washington, D.C., all of which are said to be operating at capacity.

A public scoping meeting will take place on Tuesday, July 24, at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street). From 6:30-8:30 p.m., NPS employees will be present to answer questions and to accept written comments.

The various proposals can be viewed online and feedback can be submitted there as well. The public comment period ends on Friday, August 31. If all goes according to plan, the EIS will continue through winter of 2013.

  • Sinceriously

    I’m waiting for a Capital Boatshare Membership.

    • Arlie


  • Aaron

    Georgetown University’s been trying to build a new boathouse on its side of the river for over two decades, to no avail. If ArlCo can get one built at the base of the Key Bridge in the near future, that would be yet another contrast between our county and the District’s inability to sustain and improve its infrastructure.


    • The George Washington University has been approved by the District for a boathouse just south of Key Bridge and adjacent to the new Georgetown Waterfront Park, but the National Park Service is holding up the project.

  • Mary-Austin

    Good for Arlington. It’s about time we start we start taking advantage of our location on the Potomac.
    I think site #1 is a good idea because that area of the river seems like it would be better for the kind of small boats your average person would be taking out.

    • Arlingtonian

      A boathouse at any of the locations will mess up a National Park. Only a small special interest group (high school rowers and their coaches) support this idea. Because of their constant pressures, they have convinced the Arlington County Board to and Jim Moran to also support the idea.

      This is not surprising. The County government is constantly paving its parks (or otherwise “improving” its parks) to create ball fields, trails, buildings, etc., in response to pressures from such special interest groups. The County has lost much of its public green space as a result of this.

      National Parks are different, although the County Board and Jim Moran do not seem to recognize this. National Parks are intended to preserve scenery, nature and history (except for some urban parks, such as the National Mall). They are not intended to serve special interests who wish to clutter them with all sorts of things.

      The George Washington National Parkway was created to provide a scenic automobile route into Washington and to preserve the Potomac River waterfront as an open space. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

      A boathouse at any of the locations will adversely natural scenery of the park and its surroundings. A boathouse, or any other large structure would harm one of the nation’s premier national parks. It would adversely affect a major historic resource. In addition, it would destroy trees at any of the alternative locations.

      Even worse, a boathouse would serve only a small percentage of the nation’s populatlon. Remember, this is a national park, not a local one.

      Some people like to promote development, no matter where it is. These people try fill our national parks with boathouses, restaurants, hotels, etc.

      A boathouse would attract additional development to this national treasure. Before long, somebody will bring some other project forward. You can be sure that the Arlington County Board and Jim Moran will support it and use taxpayer funds to help construct and maintain it.

      • steve

        Actually it’s multiple “parks” — from the NPS website … “The Parkway links a group of parks that provide a variety of experiences to more than 9 million people each year.”

        The NPS mission statement specifies preservation and enjoyment – nothing about an elitist obsession about open space.

        • Arlingtonian

          The George Washington Memorial Parkway is a single park. The Parkway contains a road (a parkway) that links several component parks, including Turkey Run Park, Fort Hunt Park, Lady Bird Johnson Park, Jones Point Park and Fort Marcy. None of the proposed sites for the boathouse are within any of these component parks, each of which has a specific purpose.

          The home page for the George Washington Memorial Parkway, states: “As an oasis amid urban development, the Parkway has a variety of park sites that provide opportunities for everything from quiet contemplation to nature exploration to exploring the history of the United States.” See: http://www.nps.gov/gwmp/index.htm

          A boathouse would extend “urban development” into this “oasis”. It is not “elitist” to oppose these extensions, which would eventually destroy the “oasis” if allowed to proceed.

      • This isn’t wilderness

        NPS lands are used for various activities nationwide. Some parks are all wilderness where everything is pretty much non-motorized.

        This is not a wilderness park. You could look that fact up, but the presence of thousands of cars doing 65 mph every day through it would also be a good indication that it isn’t wilderness.

        Happy to see people would have the option of another form of physical activity these days, high school kids or not.

        If you are worried about harm to the park, try standing in the middle of the GW parkway to stop all of the cars driving through it and spewing pollution. See how far that gets you.

        • Arlingtonian

          My comment did not state that the George Washington National Parkway is a “wilderness park”. It is not, and it never was. You attempted to use a common debating strategy by constructing a “straw man” and tearing it down.

          Arlington residents already have several options to engage in this particular form of physicaly activity (rowing). There presently exist in Alexandria and along the D.C. waterfront a number of nearby boathouses that Arlington rowers are using to store their boats. Several are near Key Bridge. Another is at Thompson’s Boat House near Rock Creek. None are very far from Arlington.

          If Arlington’s rowers wish to have more space to store their boats, they can try to obtain funds to increase the capacity of one or more boathouses that presently exist near the County in D.C. or Alexandria. They do not need a new facility in Arlington. They certainly do not need to add development to the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

          The main reason that the rowers and coaches are pushing for an Arlington boathouse is that the Arlington County Board is willing to use taxpayers’ money to fund a boathouse in Arlington, but would not use this money to fund a boathouse in D.C. In addition, Jim Moran, who is on the Appropriations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, would be happy to add an earmark (i.e., a pork barrel project) to an appropriations bill to fund a boathouse in his district, but would not do any such thing for a boathouse in D.C.

          The Arlington boathouse is about money. Taxpayers’ money.

          • This isn’t wilderness

            No straw man here. Your words – “National Parks are intended to preserve scenery, nature and history (except for some urban parks, such as the National Mall). They are not intended to serve special interests who wish to clutter them with all sorts of things.” Parks are also for recreation.

            DC and other area boathouses are full. If enough Arlington taxpayers support this and can convince the ArlCo Board to support this, then great. If not, oh well. But no Arlington tax dollars should be spent on building boathouses anywhere but Arlington as you suggest. Our money should be spent on projects here to reduce needless driving back and forth. Also, there are other folks like you on the other side of the river who would oppose a boathouse over there. That’s a real straw man argument.

      • Wavy Gravy and the Mashed Potatoes

        I’m an avid national parks user and an Arlington resident long out of high school. I support this project. There’s a rather wide gulf between backcountry camping in Yosemite and building a boathouse within close proximity of the parkway, 66, and that well-known Rosslyn Wilderness Area.

      • Pentagonian

        Actually the National Park Service is constantly paving its parks too. Take a look at all the asphalt and parking lots just added to Jones Point Park, not to mention dual basketball courts (more asphalt), and multiple plastic jungle gyms set up for small special interest groups (in this case, families). Trees were distroyed in the redevelopment of the park. They also added a pavillion with lighting and bathrooms in the middle of the park (yikes – development!)

        But you know what, new trees and shrubs were also planted. At the end of the day, if the park benefits a majority of the local residents, what’s the problem?

        Adding a boathouse next to TR island where existing paved parking lots currently exist (by the way, there is practically zero parking at Potomac Boat Club in G-town) is an excellent idea.

        In a day and age where more people are overweight and childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions, I’m willing to sacrifice a little “pristine” potomac shore to get Arlington kids access to their own boathouse to build a healthy, lifelong exercise habit.

        Seems like you just have a beef with Moran.

  • Tom Lang

    Between the footbridge to TR Island and the TR Bridge in order that the existing parking lot can be utillized. Also a location conventient to FfX and Arl Co. public schools. If a compromise is needed Long Bridge Park is an option.

    • bemused bystander

      One minor problem: Long Bridge Park has no direct access to the Potomac.

      • bobco85

        Plus, the body of water adjacent to Long Bridge Park is the Roaches Run Waterfoul Sanctuary (it’s not a good idea for human boats to be around that protected habitat).

  • nunya

    site one or two please.

  • B22201

    Arlington county has been trying to get a boathouse built since Charlie Butt was the coach at W&L. . . so early 90’s.

    It would be great for Arlington County to get a boathouse of its own. However, I wonder if it’s just going to be just for the county schools, or if local residents would be able to row out of there as well?

  • Arlingdude

    Me three on the choice of TR Island. There already is the Wash. Sailing Marina just south of DCA. Major need for a put-in point for kayaks, etc., farther north. Parking lot is already there. Convenience to G’town facility is a bonus.

    • Wavy Gravy and the Mashed Potatoes

      Washington Sailing Marina doesn’t let you put in kayaks, but you can do it at Gravelly as-is via the public boat ramp. TR island is indeed the correct choice, but – as others have noted – something should be done regarding access from SB GWP there. (Alternatively, a parking area on the right of Lynn just after the light at the 66/Lee off-ramp would allow access for folks coming from that general direction, with only a walk across the footbridge down to the NB side).

      The volume of parking at TR is a bit of a concern, too. That lot already fills up on nice days.

  • steve-o

    One or two would be best, as water conditions further south can often be too choppy for small boats. I hope this facility happens in my lifetime. The Potomac is one of the nicest natural assets of the DC area and access to water sports for Arlington residents would be good for our community.

  • Pentagonian

    As a former W-L rower, I’d love to see an Arlington Boathouse constructed in Alternative #1. Alternative #2 wouldn’t be bad either.

    Would be great if they could add an exit ramp and overpass that allows southbound GW parkway to access the boathouse, rather than having to u-turn at Memorial Bridge.

    • Agreed!

      Totally agreed about access to #1 or #2. We like to go to TR Island sometimes, and it is a pain in the neck for us to get on GW Pkwy Northbound.

  • Wayne Kubicki

    Does anyone have any idea as to what the costs for this (both initial capital and ongoing operating) would be?

    • John Fontain

      Hopefully as much as possible. Spending money on an environmental impact study is a good start, cause it takes a lot of deep thinking to figure out the environmental impact of non-motorized boats on the river.

      • drax

        It’s not just about the boats. Will this affect water quality due to run-off from a parking lot, or require destruction of wetlands? What would the cost in mitigation and government permits be for things like these? And other things I haven’t thought of because I’m not an expert either.

        This is why they do studies. And why they have people who know what they’re doing do the studies, instead of random self-appointed armchair experts complaining about things they know little about.

        • John Fontain

          I think they should do a study to study whether a study would be worthwhile for this project.

          • Tom Lang


            Talk of “how much does it cost” doesn’t go down well here in Arlington, it’s crass and speaks of low breeding. The correct response is, as always, “Is it to be world class?”

    • Elmer

      5:45 pm and still no answer to Wayne’s 12:56 pm question about costs.
      This must be another one of those perpetually “priceless” Arlington projects which are so, oh so, necessary to our continued existence.

  • charles

    Keep it Metro-accessible. Let’s do things that encourage public transit and less car use & parking. ROSSLYN is best..

    • Knowitall

      Right–because then people can take their kayaks with them on the Metro.

      • Jay W

        I don’t get some of the debate, they need the boathouse to store boats, but they want parking to drive, if they are driving couldn’t they just bring the “boat” with them?

  • John Fontain

    They definitely should put this as close to the people who will actually use it as possible. Since most of the rich people live in North Arlington, put it up at spots 1 or 2 so the rich people don’t have to drive too far.

    • Capt Omar

      Agreed. Poor people dont know what a boathouse is. According to the environmental impact study they would only urinate on it.

      • Ladies of The Night

        Not to mention “ladies of the night” who have displaced from Columbia Pike…….

      • steve

        Instead of putting your foot in your mouth, try putting a paddle in the water:


        • John Fontain

          Bronx. Fail. Besides that exists merely to help the rich people feel less guilty about their yachts.

  • GC_Now

    I think I’m the first vote for location #3.

    With Long Branch Park completed, this would continue the long needed improvements to the Gravelly Point area. The boathouse could support a rest area for persons using the of the Mount Vernon trail. This location would also provide a convenient stopping/rest point for boaters from existing facilities in Georgetown, Alexandria, and the Anacostia.

    • John Fontain

      “The boathouse could support a rest area for persons using the of the Mount Vernon trail.”

      It would probably support a lot of other activities too in that location.

      • Reader

        Do you actually have anything constructive to add?

        • John Fontain


  • Rardnek

    Gravelly Point would be a terrible location because the water there is not suited to small boats — it is open busy water with no “no wake” restrictions. 1 or 2 seem to be the optimal spot. #4 seems already served by the Daingerfield Isl. Marina.

  • karzai

    As was said above, this idea has been kicking around for close to two decades now. It has always in the past bogged down due to Park Service opposition. I doubt much has changed and I think the Park Service will use every possible device to slow it down as much as possible or kill it outright.

  • Id

    The EIS will take about 10 years to complete. Don’t expect this anytime soon.

  • Village Genius

    Courthouse area gets my vote.

    Remember, Court House area was the only area in all of Arlington that could house a homeless shelter (costing $42 million and counting). It must be the greatest location for anything new.

    Don’t whine about the lack of water access or you will be exposing yourself as a running dog who fails to acknowledge the greatest of dear leaders’ wisdom.

    • Ladies of The Night

      Who needs water when we have bollards !!!

    • Mary-Austin


    • Let It Begin

      Courthouse? If it ain’t Quincy Plaza, it ain’t.

  • Avast Matey!

    Yes, I vote for 1 or 2 as well. Much more interesting to tool around that part of the river and its closer to Sams Corner (who does a suprisingly delicious packed lunch for you boaters).

  • Martha Maher

    I strongly endorse #1 and #2 (good for small boats, across the river from other boathouses – and doesn’t interfere with wetlands/bird sanctuary or sailing marinas #3 & #4). Gravelly point is too close to National Airport – it would be noisy – not a desirable location for a boathouse.

    Any location that interferes with natural spaces where city folk can enjoy the little calm and quiet that a walk in the woods affords would be a big negative (#3 and #4). Let’s preserve what we have, to the extent we can. Having walked the stretch of the trail from Roosevelt Island north, I can easily imagine a boathouse there would be an improvement to what exists now – a mostly overgrown, trail that can be muddy, and one that doesn’t afford good views of the river. Very soon, one is walking below the palisades of the George Washington Parkway, without having access to the river on your right. Not exactly picturesque, or accessible for many people, in my view. Better a boathouse, with access from the parkway ramp.

    Boaters who wish to return to Washington will need to have a ramp leading back to town, on the same side of the river – perhaps joining the GW Parkway below Roosevelt Island, so as not to disturb that space.

    • Arlingtonian

      A boathouse north of Roosevelt Island would be an eyesore in a sea of green when looking toward the Potomac shore from Key Bridge.

      The wildlife living along the Potomac River probably do not consider the “mostly overgrown” trail to be “overgrown”. A boathouse will destroy their habitat.

  • Hank

    I misread this as “public bathhouse” first. Now I’m disappointed. I guess Gold’s Gym and 3rd floor mall men’s rooms will have to suffice for Arlington’s PDAs.

    • John Fontain

      That’s what it will become if placed at Gravelly.

  • DCBuff

    My support for any option that is linked to the new Columbia Pike-Potomac Yards-Arlington Boathouse streetcar.

  • Knowitall

    Make it not a boathouse but a houseboat for the homeless. Like Gangplank Marina. Of course, then it should be in Nether Arlington.

  • Mc

    Only options 1 & 2 are in Arlington. Option 3 is technically in DC and option 4 is in Alexandria.

    • drax

      Option 3 is not in DC. Only Columbia Island and TR Island are DC.

  • my mom is on the bab committee

    hey! anyone interested in the investigation of potential environmental impact of a boathouse at each proposed site is encouraged to visit http://www.arlingtonboathouse.org/index.html. maintaining the aesthetic and environmental integrity of the parkway and other sites is definitely a #1 priority for all involved and the NPS has to be completely satisfied with the plan before anything can go forward. there are some really cool ideas being kicked around including integrating the structure into the landscape and biosite by digging the boathouse into the banks of the river, kind of like a hobbit house 🙂


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