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Park Service Seeks Input On Boathouses

By Brady HoltCurrent Staff Writer

The National Park Service has proposed allowing new Potomac River boathouses on either side of the Key Bridge and is seeking public comment on this concept.

The agency will hold a public meeting on four design options at 6 p.m. tonight at the Palisades Library, 4901 V St. NW. The options include low-, medium- and high-density visions for a stretch of shoreline that begins at 34th Street and stretches to a quarter-mile west of the Key Bridge, along with a no-build alternative that retains the status quo.

One constant among all three of the “build” options is the size and locations of two proposed boathouses. A 7,800-square-foot facility would sit just west of the Key Bridge, between the bridge and the Potomac Boat Club, in a space currently used for outdoor boat storage. The second boathouse, comprising 13,800 square feet, would replace a parking lot between the bridge and the Georgetown Waterfront Park.

The proposals stem from a 2013 Park Service feasibility study of a boathouse zone for the Georgetown waterfront, agency spokesperson Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said.

“This study, which included public comment and feedback, confirmed that non-motorized boating facilities are needed in Georgetown due to limited public access points for these activities along the waterfront,” she wrote in an email. The new “preliminary alternatives newsletter” doesn’t describe details like the design of the boathouses or whether they’d be public or private.

“We are in the very early stages of looking at potential recreational improvements that will more fully support non-motorized recreation, increase public access to the Potomac River, and improve the functionality of the Capital Crescent Trail as it connects to Georgetown Waterfront Park,” Anzelmo-Sarles continued.

In addition to the two boathouses on either side of the Key Bridge, the “high-density” option would add a third upstream facility (10,000 square feet) between the Potomac Boat Club and the Washington Canoe Club. It also proposes a storage building with canoe and kayak rentals and a launching area north of the Washington Canoe Club, and says each new boathouse would have its own dock.

A second new storage building would be located under the bridge. This element is present in all three “build” options, along with a trail, picnic area and “habitat enhancements” beyond the canoe club.

The medium-density option replaces the second boathouse with a storage facility with rentals and launching spaces, plus a small “finger pier” dock, while omitting the western storage building.

The low-density alternative adds only the two Key Bridge boathouses, the storage building under the bridge, and the finger pier and launch area beyond the Potomac Boat Club; no building would be constructed west of that facility.

The public comment period will continue through March 6, but some community members have already begun to weigh in, according to Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission chair Ron Lewis.

“Issues have been raised whether boathouses should be there, because of the important view of Key Bridge and the use of the waterfront park by so many people,” Lewis said at Monday’s neighborhood commission meeting, specifically regarding the eastern boathouse proposal.

Another question, he said, is whether private boathouses — if considered by the Park Service — would be appropriate for public land, or if the facilities would need to be open to residents. Georgetown University’s long-standing effort to build itself a boathouse helped push the agency to study the issue.

The commission will consider the matter at its March 2 meeting.

For more information on the proposals or to send a comment to the Park Service, visit

This article appears in the Feb. 4 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.