Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Boathouse Decision Must Respect Park Area

As a neighbor and supporter of Georgetown University, I would like to offer a few comments on the proposal to locate the university’s boathouse within the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

Specifically, the university should have an environmentally compatible site on the Potomac River for its boathouse. Having said that, however, Georgetown should also seek to preserve the integrity of the C&O Canal Park and participate in creating a beautiful and interesting urban park on the Georgetown waterfront. While not obvious at first glance, the future of both the C&O Canal National Historical Park and the proposed Georgetown Waterfront Park are inexorably intertwined.

Without a full understanding of all the land-use planning and environmental issues involved in this matter, I fear Georgetown University may unwittingly be pursuing a course of action which is clearly not in the public interest and will create an unwelcome image for the university – that it uses money and political connections to achieve its goals at the expense of the public.

I support a boathouse for Georgetown on the Potomac River but not at the location proposed by the Park Service within the C&O Canal National Historical Park near the entrance to the Capital Crescent Trail.

Any structure, especially a collegiate boathouse at this site, will have an adverse environmental impact and will inhibit the public’s use and enjoyment of this treasured area. Indeed, a boathouse at this location would do violence to the historic and scenic features of the C&O Canal.

The boathouse would only be accessible over the Capital Crescent Trail, which is used by bikers and hikers every day of the year. Crammed into a relatively small area, this large boathouse would dwarf its immediate downstream neighbor (the historic Washington Canoe Club) and also loom over the C&O Canal towpath. The proposed dock for this boathouse would impinge on the traditional training area used by the Canoe Club for over 100 years.

As now imposed, the non-motorized boathouse zone extends from 34th and Water Streets to a point 1,100 feet upriver from the Key Bridge. The current justification for the boundaries of this zone is based simply on the fact that they were established in the l987 plan for the Georgetown Waterfront Park and the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Nearly 20 years old, this plan is outdated and fails to address the changing needs of the public in 2006.

These arbitrary boundaries fail to recognize the ever-expanding public interest in water-related activities, which is evidenced by the growing number of rowing programs. Also since the promulgation of the plan in l987, the Capital Crescent Trail has been established.

In terms of land-use planning, the entire waterfront from Washington Harbour to the Washington Canoe Club should be treated as one integrated and comprehensive area. This would allow for a review and needed modification of the no-longer-relevant l987 boundaries.

In order to protect the integrity of the C&O Canal National Historical Park, the proposed site for Georgetown’s boathouse in the park should be eliminated from further consideration as it is obviously a land-use planning mistake. If a mistake has been made, it is far better to fix it now than to regret the consequences in the future when corrections may be impossible. What is now needed is a plan with a clear vision for the future that accommodates current realities.

Locating Georgetown’s boathouse on a site at the far western edge of the park adjacent to George Washington University’s site at 34th Street would amount to just a small intrusion of less than an acre in a portion of the park now planned as a buffer of grass and trees. Most of the currently approved design for the park would remain in place.

A boathouse at this site would not restrict views to the park and the river along street corridors perpendicular to Water Street. Georgetown and GWU could share access roads and docks, thereby reducing the environmental impact on the area. This site is also deeper and more readily accessible than the originally proposed site. And it would also raise few, if any, issues with the National Environmental Policy Act.

With the public’s ever-expanding interest in water-related activities, a boathouse at this location would be a contemporary reminder of Georgetown’s early history as a port.

In conclusion, two elegantly designed collegiate boathouses, side by side, would anchor the western end of the Park and be an architectural tour de force.

Robert B. Norris is a Georgetown neighborhood resident.

Donate to The Hoya

Your donation will support the student journalists of Georgetown University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hoya