Now that the lawsuit involving Jack’s Boathouse, reopened on April 20 as “Key Bridge Boathouse,” has been dismissed, Georgetown is again considering feasible options for opening its own boathouse after 30 years of sporadically pursuing the project.
The legal battle for rights to the Jack’s Boathouse site between Paul Simkin, who assumed control of Jack’s Boathouse after the death of his business partner Frank Baxter in 2009, and the National Park Service delayed the release of a non-motorized boathouse zone feasibility study that could lead to a university-owned boathouse, according to NPS Associate Regional Director for Communications Jennifer Mummart.
With the conclusion of the lawsuit, the study was released April 19.
NPS is currently considering three potential scenarios for the Georgetown waterfront. The first scenario would leave the area undeveloped, the second calls for the construction of a non-motorized boathouse zone with room for several different rowing programs and the third scenario is a compromise between the two.
This non-motorized boathouse zone, designated in NPS’s 1987 Georgetown Waterfront Park Master Plan, would extend from 34th Street Northwest to approximately a quarter mile upriver from Key Bridge and encompass both public and private property.
According to NPS’ official study, research showed a high level of demand for boathouses in D.C., despite the existence of Thompson Boat Center near the Kennedy Center, which Georgetown and other D.C. rowing teams currently use.
In the study’s executive summary, however, NPS claimed the study did not offer any definitive conclusions about how the zone should be used but showed how the non-motorized boathouse zone could be used in a variety of ways, given the physical site limitations.
“Future planning efforts will be needed to establish a program for the zone that better accommodates the demand and is appropriate to the constraints of the site,” the summary read.
NPS will hold a public open house to present the study May 22. Until then, the study will be open to public commentary for 30 days.
Vice President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming said that Georgetown would be represented at the meeting and would submit written comments on the study.
“We are committed to this project and working through the process,” Fleming wrote in an email. “Securing the necessary approvals to move forward with a Georgetown University boathouse remains an important university priority. … We are still evaluating the feasibility study to determine what path will get us to a Georgetown University boathouse that meets our needs without further undue delay.”
After the 30-day comment period, NPS will prepare an environmental impact study in addition to revisions of the Georgetown Waterfront Park Master Plan and proposals for one or more land exchanges.
Meanwhile, Boston Outdoor Recreation, Inc., which owns and operates six Massachusetts boathouses, won the rights to the site in NPS’ auction for a new operator.
“It’s going great so far,” BOR co-owner Nicholas Verrochi, who moved from Boston to manage the boathouse, said. “We love the location.”
Verrochi added that he has felt welcomed by former clientele and that Simkin has been supportive throughout the transition.
Simkin expressed confidence in Verrochi’s ability to run the boathouse and said that the negotiated price was fair.
“If it can’t be us, it seems like a good guy who got it. They’re a smart business, and they’re trying to please the public,” Simkin said. “The business wasn’t taken over by a corporate conglomerate, and it wasn’t taken over by a university boathouse and turned into a nonpublic place. … The publicity kept the corporate folks from getting the contract.”
Verrochi said that BOR has tried to preserve the boathouse legacy as much as possible by keeping staff
According to NPS spokesperson Mike Johnson, there will not be major changes to boathouse operations.
In addition, prices are similar to those charged by Jack’s Boathouse management. Kayaks, which used to cost $15 per hour, are now $14 per hour. Canoes, which used to be rented with a per-person charge, are now $25 per hour per boat. However, Key Bridge Boathouse no longer offers a student discount.