There is a new sign of progress on the 30-year-old project to build a boathouse in Arlington.
In anticipation of planning and design work kicking off this year, the Arlington Boathouse Foundation — an organization that exists to ensure residents one day can launch non-motorized boats, such as kayaks, into the Potomac from the county’s shoreline — has launched a new website.
It is intended to provide frequent updates on the project’s progress as well as engagement opportunities, says foundation secretary George Kirschbaum. Those who need a refresher on the project, given how many years it has been discussed, will have easier access to important documents and answers to frequently asked questions, he added.
“We needed something new and fresh that’s more about the project,” Kirschbaum said. “Plus, we hope to provide some new interesting features, such as interviews with community members and interested parties to give their ideas and impressions of why this facility is important to the county and the residents.”
The website will also promote foundation-sponsored educational and promotional events, such as a river cleanup this June by the proposed lower portion of the site. Kirschbaum said foundation leaders hope events such as this one demonstrate the sustained community interest in the facility to project leaders.
Momentum has been building over the last year to build a boathouse at 2105 N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn. The project is a joint venture between Arlington County and the National Parks Service, as the county’s Potomac shoreline is NPS property.
Most recently, Kirschbaum said boathouse foundation leaders met with county officials, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and NPS representatives in December to discuss roles and responsibilities and how to keep the project moving forward.
This year, the county will solicit designs for the facility, to be comprised of two buildings: one near the entrance to the Key Bridge with locker rooms, workout areas, offices and meeting spaces, and the other at river level with storage for boat and stand-up paddle equipment, according to the boathouse website.
The project is popular with Arlington’s crew community, as it would provide them a more convenient boat launch that is away from D.C.’s crowded boathouses. Crew alumni and their friends also comprise many of the members of the Arlington Boathouse Foundation, which has pushed for the facility since 1991.
“It’s been a long process,” says Kirschbaum, who rowed for Washington-Liberty High School (then Washington-Lee) in the 1980s.
It didn’t gain momentum until 2012, when the parks service initiated an environmental impacts study — looking at how construction could affect floodplains and species living in the waterway. The study was held up several times before resuming in 2016 and wrapping up in 2018.
“I think it’s important to know that the county has a very vested interest in working with the National Parks Service to see this through to fruition,” Kirschbaum said. “There are still high-level discussions about how are we going to work together to move forward, but those talks are happening… We can actually envision a boathouse where before, it was the dream.”
Kirschbaum says he hopes the boathouse will be ready if and when his currently elementary school-aged kid goes out for crew in high school.
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.
There is a new skipper offering cruises of the Potomac River that launch from Gravelly Point in Arlington.
Jerry Lee is a South Korean immigrant and a lawyer-turned-captain who started chartering boat tours this spring through his new company, Reflections DC. He offers two-hour powerboat cruises of the Potomac from Gravelly Point and three-and-a-half to five-hour sailing excursions of the Chesapeake Bay from Shadyside, Maryland.
His launch coincided with cherry blossom season and he was fully booked during that time.
“That was really encouraging,” said Lee, who lived for a number of years in Clarendon.
Bookings continue to fill up: His weekends are almost fully booked and he takes tourists on the water about two to three times a week. Many find out about his company through his Airbnb experiences page, which drives up to 40% of his bookings. His most popular offering is the powerboat cruise but he is working to promote his sailing excursions, which range from trips for pleasure to instructional courses.
“It’s very quickly been enough to earn a living,” he said. “It’s going faster than I expected. As the weather gets warmer, people are booking more and more.”
He got the idea for Reflections DC from a friend who owns a charter business in Baltimore. He started the company last year and then set out to obtain the necessary business licenses and build up the online presence needed to get started.
Lee is trying to carve out a niche for Reflections DC as a private, small boating company offering “engaging, conversation-driven and personalized experiences” — with complimentary beer, seltzers and sodas — amid big competitors running dinner cruises.
“I really do want to get people inspired to learn to sail and to buy a boat, to do all that stuff safely,” he said.
The skipper, who came to the U.S. when he was 16, discovered sailing in college while teaching martial arts to support himself. One of his students became a good friend and took him sailing for the first time. Throughout the rest of college and during law school, Lee rented little dinghies and kept improving his sailing skills. He finished law school in 2011, did corporate litigation for two years and started taking on cases as a private-practice attorney in 2013.
While he has kept his day job for now, one day Lee hopes to make Reflections DC a full-time pursuit.
“When people see me as a lawyer, they have a problem they want me to solve, and that’s fulfilling, but people are upset when people see me,” he said. “On the boat, people are happy, and if they aren’t, they will be when they’re done.”
Lee aims to expand and run more than one boat at a time but he doesn’t want it to get so big that Reflections DC loses its essential offering — “a more pure experience” of the river and the sights surrounding it.
“I feel like I shouldn’t be able to make a living doing something so much fun,” he said.
Boat Catches Fire Near Gravelly Point — “Update boat fire Gravelly Point. Vessel is well involved. #DCsBravest Fireboats in active attack on burning vessel. The 11 occupants are being transported to Fire/Police pier for evaluation.” [Twitter, Twitter]
Flags at Half Staff in Va., U.S. — “Per an order from @GovernorVA, the Virginia flag is to be lowered to half staff at all federal, state and local government facilities across Virginia in memory of U.S Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday. Flags are to remain lowered until burial.” [Twitter, White House]
AMC Shirlington Temporarily Closed — The AMC Shirlington 7 theater appears to have suddenly, temporarily closed over the weekend. AMC’s website shows no planned showtimes at the theater. The reason for the closure was not given. The theater reopened on Aug. 27 at a reduced capacity after closing at the beginning of the pandemic. [Twitter]
Beyer Still Pushing for Rosslyn Boathouse — “The seemingly interminable planning process for a new boathouse facility in Rosslyn already has outlasted one of its champions in Congress, and while U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) is not planning on departing any time soon, one wonders if it might outlast him, too. Not if Beyer has anything to say about it. ‘It’s moving very slowly, but it will be done,’ Beyer vowed.” [InsideNova]
Local Startup’s Return to Office Normalcy — “Phone2Action’s first step toward that elusive new normalcy appears to be going as planned. That’s the latest word from Jeb Ory, CEO and founder of the advocacy platform, who said those employee volunteers the company selected to be the first workers back into Phone2Action’s headquarters at 1500 Wilson Blvd. seem to adapting well to the workplace changes.” [Washington Business Journal]
County Board Approves New Bonds — From last week: “The Board [voted] to authorize the sale of up to $172.32 million in General Obligation Public Improvement Bonds for new projects and the refunding of existing bonds to lower interest rates and save taxpayer money.” [Arlington County]
Arrest Made in Eden Center Nightclub Homicide — “City of Falls Church Police identified Geovanny Alexander Mejia Castro as the homicide victim in the September 11, 2020 shooting at the Diva Lounge (6763 Wilson Blvd.). Mr. Castro, a security guard at the nightclub, died from multiple gunshot wounds.” [City of Falls Church]
A stone’s throw from Crystal City is Roaches Run, a waterfowl sanctuary on the northern flight path to and from Reagan National Airport.
The body of water, surrounded by woods, is home to birds, ducks and dragonflies. Accessible primarily from a small parking lot off the southbound GW Parkway, most human activity is confined to fishing and birdwatching.
But that may eventually change.
Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey toured a portion of woods around Roaches Run last week with the chair of Arlington’s Planning Commission and representatives of Crystal City property owner and Amazon landlord JBG Smith.
— Libby Garvey (@libbygarvey) February 27, 2020
Though Roaches Run is controlled by the National Park Service and is part of the GW Parkway, JBG owns parcels of land adjacent to the waterfowl sanctuary and could help link it to Crystal City. That would give the rapidly-developing neighborhood newfound accessibility to natural spaces.
“JBG owns a lot of the land over there and is in communication with the Park Service,” Garvey told ARLnow, noting that the developer invited her to last week’s tour. “Can we take this land and turn it into an accessible, usable space for people?”
Garvey said Roaches Run is “a lost area” that’s “not very accessible for anybody” at the moment. Active railroad tracks currently separate it from Crystal City and Long Bridge Park.
JBG declined comment for this story.
Among the ideas for Roaches Run are walking and biking trails, a floating dock for boaters in canoes or kayaks, and bird observation stations. Roaches Run would remain a nature preserve, however, and is not envisioned for other sports or recreation uses.
“It’s going to take some cooperation” to see this idea come to fruition, Garvey said.
The county, the Park Service, JBG and even the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority would likely be involved. That’s not to mention local civic associations, which have floated the idea of establishing connectivity to Roaches Run from Long Bridge Park and the Mt. Vernon Trail as part a series of improvements to the Crystal City and Pentagon City are dubbed Livability 22202.
“I think it’s an advantage for everybody…. making that whole area spectacular for people,” Garvey said. “You could get on an airplane and go hiking and boating within a mile radius.”
While discussions about Roaches Run have been informal in nature so far, with Amazon moving in nearby and demand for recreational opportunities growing it’s likely to advance to a more formal planning process at some point in the near future.
“It’s all very tentative but this is how ideas start, you have to start somewhere,” Garvey said. “Nothing is happening tomorrow or even next year… it’s probably 5-10 years out.”
Map via Google Maps
Rep. Beyer Talks Impeachment — “Phones have been ringing all day with constituents calling to tell me they support impeachment, particularly following the President’s corrupt dealings with Ukraine. They are right.” [Twitter]
Westover School Project Moving Forward — “There will be no stay of execution for any of the trees on the chopping block as the Arlington school system moves forward with a new elementary school in Westover. School Board members on Sept. 19 voted to approve a construction contract for the $55 million project, which will drop a 725-student facility adjacent to Westover Library on North McKinley Road near Washington Boulevard.” [InsideNova]
It’s Rabies Awareness Week — “September 23-29 is Rabies Awareness Week in Virginia. Follow these five tips to help ensure you and your family are protected. 1. Get Pets Vaccinated… 2. Stay Away from Wild Animals… 3. Keep Pets Leashed… 4. Seek Medical Care Immediately if Bitten… 5. Report Animal Bites and Strange Behavior.” [Arlington County]
ARLnow Reporters Splashed — “A large pleasure boat flying a Trump flag and operating at what appeared to be higher-than-permitted speed came so close to a water taxi bound for the Wharf Sunday that many passengers were soaked when the water taxi crossed its wake. A representative for the Potomac RiverBoat Company was not able to confirm the incident over the phone but, this is Washington, and there were at least two reporters aboard the water taxi.” [Washingtonian]
‘Candi-dating’ Forum Planned — “The League of Women Voters of Arlington is partnering with a number of other organizations on a “candi-dating” forum. The event, to be held on Sunday, Oct. 6 at Walter Reed Community Center, is akin to speed-dating: Attendees will have 10 minutes to meet with candidates running for office from Arlington and Alexandria.” [InsideNova]
Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on the latest step in the decades-long plan to build a Rosslyn boathouse.
On Saturday, members are set to consider a “programmatic agreement” to build a boathouse at 1101 Lee Highway in Rosslyn, which would allow non-motorized boats like kayaks to launch into the Potomac from Arlington’s shore.
County spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said this agreement, if approved, would bring the country one paddle closer to a boathouse:
The Programmatic Agreement is a routine element of the environmental review process and reflects the intent of National Park Service and the various regional parties involved in development of the project to cooperate in implementing it. The Board vote is required to authorize the County Manager to sign the agreement. This administrative step, if approved by the Board and by other regional entities, would allow for the National Park Service’s Environmental Assessment to be completed. Completing the EA is an important next step in the project’s timeline. A public process for development of the boathouse would be established separately.
A copy of the design plans shared in a staff report to the Board call for:
- a 14,000-square-foot boat storage house that’s designed to be flood-resistant
- a 300-foot-long dock for non motorized boats (like kayaks)
- a building for bathrooms, locker rooms, educational rooms, and offices
- an ADA-compliant parking area
- a 300-foot-long emergency vehicle access lane
“The Arlington County and Vicinity Boathouse project is included in the Adopted Fiscal Years (FY) 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which envisions $500,000 in FY 2022 for development of the management model and formulation of the long-term use arrangement and $2.245 million in FY 2026 for the final design of the Boathouse project,” the staff report says.
It’s been almost 25 years since the “boathouse task force” formed to propose the idea, but the project didn’t gain momentum until 2012 when the National Park Service began studying potential environmental impacts. The study was put on hold several times, before resuming in 2016.
At the time, the Park Service worried about how construction could affect flood plains along the river, as well as species that called the waterway home.
In this week’s staff report, a resolution says that the Park Service determined that the boathouse could “have a direct adverse effect on the George Washington Memorial Parkway Historic District and an indirect adverse effect on Theodore Roosevelt Island.” However, it approved going forward provided the following steps were taken to reduce impact:
- Restricting and minimizing ground and vegetation disturbance during construction, including limiting tree removal.
- Minimizing the size of construction equipment and using minimally invasive construction methods.
- Developing a “light on the land” facility with a minimal footprint and massing that is in scale with the surrounding landscape.
- Limiting the depth of excavation to avoid disturbing any unknown archeological resources below the depth of previous testing.
- Keeping a 50-100 foot area of protection around known archeological sites where heavy equipment is not allowed to help avoid compression/compaction.
- Applying avoidance and minimization strategies to staging and storage areas as well.
The project has many fans in the county’s rowing community, which recently banded together to reinforce their support for the water sport after APS threatened to cut the high school teams from the county’s budget.
The Arlington Boathouse Foundation writes on its website that although the county was among the first to introduce rowing teams to its high schools, teams for many years have had to launch crew boats out of D.C. “The George Washington Memorial Parkway severed Arlington’s access to its own shoreline,” the foundation notes.
Since the D.C. boathouse serves multiple jurisdictions, accessing those facilities can be tricky.
“Some area boathouses have a two- to three-year waiting list for membership and an additional waiting list for storage space for a single scull,” the National Park Service wrote on its website about the Rosslyn plan.
(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Parks officials have signed off on some big changes at Theodore Roosevelt Island, including the rehabilitation of a troublesome section of the Mt. Vernon Trail and the addition of several new landing spots for small boats and kayaks.
The National Park Service announced yesterday (Monday) that it will move ahead with a variety of construction projects on the island, located off the George Washington Memorial Parkway near Rosslyn, after settling on some final designs and certifying they’ll have minimal environmental impacts on the island.
Some of the changes will be relatively small, like the addition of some new signs and markers detailing Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy — the island is home to the lone memorial to the nation’s 26th president in D.C. Others will be more substantial, such as the total overhaul and realignment of a boardwalk-style bridge on the Mt. Vernon Trail, which runs from underneath the Roosevelt Bridge to just south of the island’s parking lot.
The park service’s plans call for a “replacement of the bridge deck and railing to provide a smoother riding surface.” That will likely come as good news to area cyclists, who have nicknamed it “the Trollheim Bridge” for its treacherous surface — TheWashCycle blog described it as a the “notoriously slippery part of the Mt. Vernon trail that has caused literally thousands of crashes” in a post last year.
The main, 1,400-foot-section of the bridge also meets an additional 90-foot section toward its north end, creating an awkward “T” intersection for cyclists. The realignment work will eliminate that intersection, creating a new left turn lane as well.
Other walking trails on the island will see some improvements under the plans as well. The NPS is hoping to improve connections between the pedestrian bridge and the island’s Memorial Plaza and create “universal access to the entire Swamp Trail, including access to the comfort station.” That small rest stop is also set to see a refresh under these plans.
The NPS is also hoping to add a total of four landings for canoes, kayaks and row boats on the island. Each one will be about 12 feet wide, and provide “access for approximately 4-5 kayaks/canoes,” according to the park service’s documents. The plans also call for the construction of a roughly 100-foot-long “floating dock” for larger craft, to be located at the island’s northeast corner, once the home of a ferry landing.
The park service noted in an environmental analysis of these proposed changes that, currently, “boaters and kayakers anchor or beach their non-motorized watercraft on unmarked areas along the shoreline.” Officials fear that the “practice impacts natural and archeological resources and has the potential to expose boaters and kayakers to underwater hazards in shoreline areas,” reasoning that the new landings should alleviate that issue. The area could also be in line to see increased boating activity, should the NPS’ plans to build the long-anticipated Rosslyn boathouse continue to advance.
Additionally, the park service wants to add some more vegetation and trees to the largely wooded island. Some new shrubs will be designed to cover up existing “social” bike trails on the island’s north shore line; other tree plantings will replace the roughly 200 ash trees the NPS had to remove last summer due to an “emerald ash borer infestation.”
The NPS says it’s still searching for funding for the entire range of projects on the island, but some will move ahead in the near term. The Mt. Vernon Trail bridge improvements, for instance, are currently out for bid by federal officials and could be completed by sometime in 2020.
APS Tells Staff to Stop Paying Sales Tax — As a public institution Arlington Public Schools is exempt from paying sales tax, but the school system’s internal auditor has found that some staff members have been placing orders for APS via Amazon without sales tax exempted. APS has since requested sales tax refunds for those orders. [InsideNova]
Arlington Resident Cited for Boating Incident — An Arlington man has been cited for operating a vessel while impaired after his 28-foot boat ran aground off the eastern shore of Maryland, south of Ocean City. [WMDT]
Notable Rivercrest Property Sold — A home and an adjacent vacant lot have been sold near the intersection of Military Road and N. Glebe Road in the Rivercrest neighborhood. The lot was the site of a “national debate over property rights and conformity,” when in 1969 an architect started to build a custom home on the lot but was ultimately stopped after a legal challenge by neighbors, who thought the home was ugly and would not “retain the very pleasant, beautiful nature of Rivercrest.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Flipper: Selling Home to the County Was a Pain — A real estate investor has penned a piece for the Post in which he recounts the sale of one of his properties to Arlington County. The sale, of a house near Fire Station 8, was “neither lucrative nor convenient” and was more trouble than it was worth, he writes. However, the owner of a run-down property next to his received a much better price by holding out, the piece suggests. [Washington Post]
Mouthwash on Clarendon Bus Stop — Updating the saga of the stick of deodorant atop a Clarendon bus stop, the deodorant has now been joined by an errant bottle of Listerine mouthwash. [ARLnow]
There’s a renewed push for action on the decades-old plan to build a boathouse in the Rosslyn area.
County and federal officials want the public to know that although the project has stopped and restarted several times, it definitely hasn’t been scrapped.
Arlington County has been working on various forms of the boathouse project since the 1990s. It has collaborated with the National Park Service because the county’s shoreline along the Potomac River technically is NPS property.
In October, the county requested that the Commonwealth of Virginia quitclaim any interest it has in the street that fronts the property at 1101 Lee Highway. The county had purchased the Lee Highway land parcel in 2014 for $2.4 million with the listed intent of using the land for possible boathouse-related purposes.
The county requested the quitclaim because it’s unclear exactly who owns and maintains this small portion of the land along the former Lee Highway right of way. VDOT now has to approve the quitclaim — which has no fiscal impact to either party — and the county believes that should happen by or shortly after the new year.
The county points out that this section of land also is the only service vehicle access point if a boathouse is built. Public parking and drop-offs would be located in a safer area further away from the busy intersection with N. Lynn Street and the I-66 off-ramp.
Any progress on the boathouse plan is theoretical until NPS completes an environmental study — as required by law — showing how such a project would impact the area’s natural and cultural resources.
NPS launched an environmental impact statement (EIS) in 2012, with funding secured by former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). The study involved getting community feedback on locations for a potential boathouse.
But the EIS was put on hold and NPS is investigating whether it can instead do an environmental assessment, which is a similar but less intensive study that takes less time to produce. The EA would incorporate the information already gathered during the now-stalled EIS.
NPS launched a transportation study last year to determine what impact a boathouse would have on the area’s existing transportation network. The agency has been collaborating with Arlington County and VDOT for that study and in compiling a final report on the transportation impacts.
Although 1101 Lee Highway was intended to be a location for a boathouse facility, that’s actually not set in stone. That parcel of land is called an “upper site” and cannot effectively host a boathouse on its own without a nearby “lower site” near Theodore Roosevelt Island where boats could be stored and launched. If NPS deems another site better suited for a boathouse, Arlington County could use the Lee Highway land for something else.
“In addition, or as an alternative use, the county may put other passive or recreational uses on the parcel,” said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “We need to wait until a final determination is made by the National Park Service on the parcel, so other uses aren’t actively being pursued.”
A study for another hot project — the Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola — in relatively the same area was released last month, but Baxter says it’s far too early to consider that an option for the land parcel. In fact, she said it’s premature to even comment on the feasibility of a possible gondola project because the study hasn’t even been reviewed or vetted by county staff.
As far as the next steps for moving forward with the boathouse, NPS hopes to announce a decision about the environmental study and its possible transition to an environmental assessment by early 2017.
If the agency announces it is able to go forward with an EA instead of an EIS, it could potentially reveal a preferred boathouse site at that time as well, although the location decision is not required until the final environmental study results are released.
Rip Sullivan Running for Delegate — Richard “Rip” Sullivan is the first candidate to announce his candidacy to replace the retiring Del. Bob Brink. Sullivan, a Democrat and a Fairfax County resident, said he’s running “to fight the Tea Party Republicans trying to roll back social and economic progress in Virginia.” [Rip Sullivan for Delegate]
Metro Fare Increase Takes Effect — Metrorail fares have been raised an average of 10 cents as of Sunday. Other changes include hikes to Metrobus fares, MetroAccess fares and Metro parking rates. [WMATA]
Arlington-Based Agency Works to Foil Hackers — Reporters were recently given a tour of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, a Department of Homeland Security-run hub for the U.S. government’s coordinated response to cyber attacks. The highly secure and classified office is located in a “non-descript” office building in Ballston, above a chain restaurant. [Bloomberg, InformationWeek]
‘Airbnb for Boats’ in D.C. — A service called Boatbound has launched in the D.C. area. It allows boat owners to rent out their boats to non-boat owners. The going rate for most boats on Boatbound is $200-500 per day. [Washington City Paper]
Flickr pool photo by Eric
A boat fell off its trailer on Lee Highway in Cherrydale Saturday evening, requiring a 40-ton crane and several hours to remove it from the roadway.
The boat belongs to Tom McNulty, a Yorktown resident who took his 16-foot Bayliner power boat out on the Potomac to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather on Saturday. Driving back on Lee Highway, McNulty said he hit a big bump in front of the Dunkin Donuts at 3520 Lee Highway.
“We weren’t going fast, maybe 27 or 30 mph,” McNulty told ARLnow.com today. “We hit the bump and the trailer doesn’t have any suspension. We felt it slide, slowed down, and that’s when it drifted into the right lane and hit a street light.”
McNulty said multiple safety chains and other securing mechanisms snapped, allowing the boat to come completely off the trailer. Once it hit the pavement, it slid down the road “about 100 feet,” McNulty said, leaving fiberglass residue all over the pavement.
The incident happened around 4:45 p.m. McNulty said it took about three hours for the crane — which was called in after a flatbed tow truck operator took one look at the boat and realized he could not tow it — to finally lift it and take it to a yard, where it now sits awaiting an insurance claims adjuster.
“My brother was the one who called it in, and the 911 dispatcher thought we said a bird in a road,” McNulty said. “I’m sure dispatch thought some idiot called in a bird in the road, so when they sent a squad car they realized what was actually happening.”
McNulty said there’s only superficial damage to the boat, but said this isn’t the first time he’s had problems keeping his boat out of harm’s way.
“A tree fell on my first boat,” he said. “During the derecho storm last year. This massive tree just came right down on it. I’m getting my pilot’s license next year so I hope I have better luck with planes.”