Arlington, VA

The Arlington County Board voted last night to advance long-awaited plans for a new public boathouse in Rosslyn.

Members unanimously voted to allow County Manager Mark Schwartz to sign an agreement with the National Park Service, which will allow the federal agency to end its environmental assessment of the project and kick off the design phase.

Board Chair Christian Dorsey said the vote “sets the stage” for the next steps in the process, which will be “subject to further testing and analysis.”

The current design plans call for a 14,000-square-foot boathouse and a 300-foot-long dock along with lockers and bathrooms in another building with parking and road access.

Prior to the vote, several residents expressed concerns that building on the proposed site at 1101 Lee Highway would lead to trees being cut down, among other environmental impacts that NPS also initially feared. Three residents asked why Gravelly Point could not be considered as an alternative location, but officials did not directly respond to the question.

Board member Erik Gutshall said the future design process will wrestle with many of those details, so there was no reason not to move forward with the “broad brush” of the project Tuesday night.

Some residents also expressed concern that the boathouse could “turn Key Bridge into a traffic nightmare during rush hour,” as independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement put it.

Environmental & Energy Conservation Commission member Claire O’Dea said the commission did not have an official recommendation to offer, but that “because of the likelihood of significant environmental impact” the group urged the County Board to involve all stakeholders throughout the development process.

Erik Meyers, Arlington resident and president of the Arlington Boathouse Foundation, said the foundation has brainstormed ways to build the boathouse “to sit as lightly as possible on the land and with respect to the river.” He added that signing the agreement would help “a community that has been long separated from its historic shoreline.”

Another resident said she’s travelled to the Georgetown boathouse for the last 12 years to row and would welcome a facility on the Virginia side of the Potomac.

“It would be fantastic to have facilities in Rosslyn,” she said. “It gives Arlington County residents and high school rowing programs closer and safer access to the river.”

The county has been in talks to build the boathouse for over 20 years. NPS’ environmental assessment began in 2012 but stalled soon after before being revived in 2016.

Images via Arlington County

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