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Design Board Calls for Changes to Canal Dock

By Graham VyseCurrent Staff Writer

Preliminary plans for a new dock on the C&O Canal earned the enthusiastic support of the Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission last week, but the Old Georgetown Board has declined to take action on the project until its design is tweaked.

According to U.S. Commission of Fine Arts secretary Thomas Luebke, the board “expressed great support” at its Dec. 4 meeting for the idea of a dock for canoes and kayaks on the 34th Street bank of the canal.

The board’s main concern with the current design, however, is that there isn’t much space between stairs leading from the road to the dock and the dock’s edge along the water. Luebke described that 2-foot area as “too tight” a space to accommodate people coming in and out of the canal.

The dock would be constructed by the Georgetown Business Improvement District and the National Park Service. Maggie Downing of the business group told The Current that she and her colleagues appreciated this feedback from board members.

“We look forward to tweaking the plans,” she said. “We’re thrilled that they shared our enthusiasm for the project.”

At the neighborhood commission’s Dec. 1 meeting, Downing said the dock would be located just east of the pedestrian crossing on 34th Street and directly behind 3333 Water St. It would be handicapped-accessible and available to residents who own boats or rent from nearby boathouses such as Fletcher’s.

“I think the concept is terrific,” commission chair Ron Lewis said just moments before he and his colleagues voted unanimously to support the project. Commissioner Bill Starrels also praised the business improvement district for holding a series of community meetings to get feedback on the project from neighbors.

The business group originally proposed building the dock as part of its “Georgetown 2028” plan, which aims to enhance the neighborhood’s commercial district over the next 14 years. Earlier this year, group CEO Joe Sternlieb told The Current that canoeing and kayaking are currently permitted in the Georgetown section of the canal, but the water isn’t easily accessible. He said he and his colleagues hope that Fletcher’s Boathouse and Thompson Boat Center would allow customers to carry rental equipment to the canal when boating in the Potomac River is not advisable.

“Sometimes, it can be a beautiful day and the canal is peaceful, [but] the Potomac is rushing out after a storm,” Sternlieb said.

This article appears in Dec. 10 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.