GW inches closer toward Potomac boathouses

GW expects to get plans for the construction of its own boathouse along the Potomac River underway as soon as Georgetown University’s boathouse plans are cleared through the National Park Service. But that may not happen anytime soon.

GW acquired two townhouses on the Georgetown waterfront between 35th and 36th streets in 2003 and plans on trading them for land owned by the Park Service just east of the Key Bridge as the site for a new boathouse. GW’s and Georgetown’s rowing programs currently share the public boathouse, Thompson Boat Center, located at the intersection of Rock Creek Parkway and Virginia Avenue, along with about a dozen area high schools and the general public.

Lewis Rumford, GW’s business development senior adviser, said last week that he expects GW to start moving forward with the boathouse plans as soon as Georgetown has cleared the zoning process for its own boathouse, which should begin after the environmental assessment for the plans is announced sometime this week. An environmental assessment estimates the effects of a project on the surrounding area.

The Park Service will have to conduct another environmental assessment before it is authorized to trade GW’s future boathouse property for the townhouses.

When asked why GW was waiting for Georgetown’s plans to clear the NPS, Rumford said, “It would appear that NPS wants to handle sort of one thing at a time.”

The environmental assessment for Georgetown’s boathouse has taken much longer than usual because of persistent opposition by neighbors and advocacy groups. The Defenders of the Potomac River Parkland, a coalition of such groups, opposes the boathouse because the Park Service is giving up national land, and they think the Georgetown boathouse would be too large.

Controversy over the construction of a Georgetown boathouse has stalled action on its plans. Georgetown has been in negotiations with the Park Service since 1987, according to its student newspaper, The Hoya. Sally Blumenthal, the NPS’s deputy associate regional director of lands, resources and planning, said she doesn’t expect GW’s boathouse to begin construction soon.

“GW made a strategic decision not to get embroiled in the controversy,” Blumenthal said. “(University President Stephen Joel) Trachtenberg wanted it to be done before he left but I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Blumenthal added that GW’s boathouse “probably won’t be as controversial because there are no trees” on the proposed site like there are on Georgetown’s site.

The Park Service is looking forward to moving GW and Georgetown out of Thompson because it will free up space for storage.

Mary Kate Martelon, co-captain of GW women’s rowing team, said that there are a lot of problems the team faces because it must use a public boathouse.

“With our own boathouse many of these problems could be solved,” Martelon said in an e-mail. “We would not have to be concerned with the when the high schools were going out, or wait for dock space, or be on the dock master’s schedule.”

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