Jack's Boathouse Lease Canceled

courtesy of Jack's Boat House

Like a Grinch before Christmas, the National Park Service has canceled its lease with Jack's Boathouse, the popular canoe and kayak renting facility on the Potomac River next to Key Bridge.

According to a letter received by Paul Simkin, owner of Jack's Canoes & Kayaks, LLC, from the National Park Service, his business has until the end of next month to vacate the property. Jack's has been a boat rental location in the same spot on the river since 1945.

The letter, sent Dec. 18 and signed by NPS regional director Stephen Whitesell, stipulates: "This letter serves as notice to Jack's . . . to terminate its occupancy of the leased premises. Please vacate the property on and before 11:59 p.m. on January 31, 2013, and remove all personal property from the premises. . . ."

The letter also reads: "As you are aware, the property upon which Jack's Canoes & Kayaks, LLC, conducts business became a part of Rock Creek Park when the District of Columbia transferred jurisdiction over certain property along the Georgetown Waterfront to the National Park Service. This 1984 transfer included the October 1, 1973, month-to-month lease (as amended in 1982) for the property popularly known as Jack's Boat House, located at 3500 K Street, N.W. . . . and said lease was assigned to the National Park Foundation."

The Georgetowner contacted the NPS to ask why the boathouse lease was canceled, but its public affairs office has not yet responded to the newspaper.

As the latest owner of Jack's Boat House, Paul Simkin commented on the NPS decision to cancel his business's lease.

"The Jack's Boathouse family is heartbroken that after 70 years on the same location, we are told in a form letter that we must be out by 30 days," Simkin said. "Hearing this at Christmastime will be a huge blow to our 27 employees at Jack's Boathouse who are losing their jobs which makes this even harder."

"Last summer was the best summer we ever had in D.C. at the boathouse with our business booming and our customers happy," he said. "We were brought into the National Park Service offices and assured a minimum of a three-year contract — and then to be told this now is just devastating."

Simkin said that he has grown Jack's seasonal customer base from 4,000 four years ago to 72,000 in 2012.

The Georgetowner will have an update to this news story next week -- along with a review of possible boathouse projects on the Potomac and the proposal to move Jack's Boathouse upstream.

Dec 22, 2012 at 7:14 AM mary

what a shame.

Dec 22, 2012 at 8:54 AM Sonya Bernhardt

What can we do about this? Any ideas?

Dec 22, 2012 at 2:41 PM Steve Frank

This is wrong. What can we do?

Dec 22, 2012 at 5:48 PM CJ

This is truly horrible. Can we do anything? Jack's is a part of the DC waterfront!

Dec 22, 2012 at 5:53 PM Joan Salvanelli

Please let me know if there is anything we can do to make them change their mind.

Dec 22, 2012 at 6:21 PM Robert Devaney

Petition the National Park Service, specifically the office of the director of the National Capital Region: Steve Whitesell, Regional Director, National Park Service, 1100 Ohio Drive, SW, Washington D.C. 20242 [202-619-7000]. Also, contact the National Park Foundation, which has been assigned the lease for the property, according to Whitesell's letter to Jack's Boathouse. The NPS recognizes the National Park Foundation as its official charitable partner; 1201 Eye Street, NW, Suite 550B, Washington, D.C. 20005 [202-354-6460].

Dec 22, 2012 at 6:42 PM James Cameron

Mr. Simkin has provided a wonderful service to residents in the the whole washington D.C. ,VA,MD Metro area. Employed military and students with the kindess regard. I not sure what more the Park service can provide??? They should model his example in their own Park system and reward him with an extended lease.

Dec 22, 2012 at 8:36 PM kat

Ah! Disgusting! This place is AMAZING! One of the FEW places that would bring me, a local, into Georgetown to begin with! Why on earth would they want to get rid of this wonderful establishment?!

Dec 22, 2012 at 10:44 PM Inthedmv

While it probably can't hurt to complain to the NPS, complaining to your member of Congress will probably get better results.


Dec 22, 2012 at 11:18 PM Carolina Gonzalez

This are horrible news... I hope they can fight this in court... No one cares anymore about old businesses who had been part of this town forever...Why this all of the sudden?

Dec 23, 2012 at 10:46 AM Philip G Lanks

That the NPS won't answer is very telling. All of us Georgetowners must fight this unwarrented land grab.

Dec 23, 2012 at 10:48 AM Charlie Eason

Complaining to our member of Congress would be a great idea...if we only had one. (No disrespect to Ms. Norton, but she doesn't have a vote.)

Dec 23, 2012 at 11:07 AM sally strain

This is horrible news. Jack's is a magical place with superb management/ friendly and competent staff/a variety of different types of boats/public access to the river . . . and a unique atmosphere unmatched in the city! Let's find a way to save Jack's! Sally

Dec 23, 2012 at 1:43 PM Janice Crouse

Bet the owner is a Republican.

Dec 23, 2012 at 2:19 PM Bread and Butter

EVERYBODY IS WONDERING HOW, how will Jack's be saved?! That's exactly what the National Park Service has done for you folks!

Let me remind you that Jack Baxter of Jack's was an officer with the Park Service - I am delighted that Jack's will be kept a family business.

I am a former employee of Jack's, and not the only employee to end the summer as a federal witness. In all my years, never have I encountered such horrible management, business practices, and unethical treatment of employees! To boot, the rental dock wasn't even insured all summer!

Nonetheless, WHAT AN AMAZING SPOT! SUCH AN AMAZING COMMUNITY! and of course, gotta love the kayaking.. BEST OF LUCK TO THE PARK SERVICE!

The one Jack's knows as "Bread and Butter"

Dec 23, 2012 at 8:09 PM Dave

Just garbage. Thanks Paul, for what Jack's brought to the DC community. Most of my favorite times in DC happened there, certainly won't be forgotten.

Also, what a cowardly post, "bread&butter."

Dec 23, 2012 at 9:43 PM Eric Castellano

I have to say the NPS are pulling their usual shady, useless tricks...greedy government funded idiots ...this is typical and regardless of management at jacks, this is a family business and should reain a constant attraction in Georgetown ...the end.

Dec 24, 2012 at 1:25 AM justin

My name is justin baxter, Jack Baxter is my grandfather is started the boathouse in 1949, it was ;later run by my Uncle Frank Baxter, and then swindled and taken over by anna and Paul Simpkin, not only did they cut my uncle and my father and other uncle out of the business but also stole the land he owned and sold it and he ended up ruining my families legacy. Please note that Paul is NOT family, he was not a best friend of Frank baxter, this is NOT a family run business so as a true descendent of Jacks, as jack Baxter is my Grandfather i rather it be run by the park service then the current greedy owners that cut my uncle and family out of the business, took the waterfront land we owned and shut my brother and I out of the business, FOLKS please note this is NOT a family run business at all and as a Baxter, I am telling you the Park Service has every right to take the boathouse over. Just want you to know the truth about this as a insider so you know what your petitioning, the park service will not shut jacks down, it will just be run like fletchers is by the Dc gov't, but it will not go anyway and you will still be able to rent canoes and kayaks and enjoy the boathouse. GO PARK SERVICE run it my grandmother would want you to.


Justin Baxter rightful descendent of Jacks Boathouse and Jack Baxter's grandson.

Dec 24, 2012 at 2:55 PM Holliday Williams

My worry is that there is no finite plans or timeline for action set by the NPS. One moment Jack's boathouse is discussing a 3 year lease, then has a record summer increasing it's customer base and visibility significantly, so the NPS steps in and decides it will take over and run it's own consession boathouse (will be likely run by Guest Services International, which has an omnibus contract with the NPS and runs Thompson's Boathouse downriver as well as other major park concessions all over the U.S.). Will the NPS let Jack's sit like it has the Canoe Club - which was padlocked in a hurry for no real reason in 2010? It would make sense for the NPS to let Jack's operate under the current owners and be in productive use until they can present the public (and current owners) with a better plan and timeline. The NPS could also give the current owners some time to propose a contract to run the concession themselves and arrange for the proper insurance and updates that will meet their requirements (fundraiser, anyone?). Justin, I'd love to hear more about your grandparent's vision for the boathouse - I hope their original vision is treated as an integral part of this process.

Dec 27, 2012 at 4:22 PM Debbie Thrift

To Dave -- a cowardly post - you have to be kidding! The cowards are the two who STOLE Jack's Boathouse! Jack and Lee Baxter would have never given this to these two people nor Frankie -- and since Frankie is no longer with us, we don't really know that occured do we? Those two do know and please NPS take back the property.

Dec 27, 2012 at 4:26 PM Debbie Thrift

And the post by Justin is all true -- he is a cousin of mine -- his grandfather, Jack Baxter, was my great uncle, my grandmother's brother (Doris, her son, Bobby Thrift, my dad). These two people are not family at all. Everything Justin wrote is true -- too bad they can't take these two to court for swindling and deceiving -- GO NPS!

Dec 27, 2012 at 4:52 PM Linda Thrift

Jack Baxter was my uncle--I grew up at Jack's boathouse. These new owners swindled the boathouse from my cousin, Frank, who died shortly thereafter. I was horrified to see that they were profiting from my uncle's name and legacy. I am all for the Park Service taking over the boathouse. Jack certainly wouldn't have wanted those crooks to have it. Hopefully, the NPS will right this wrong.

Dec 28, 2012 at 6:34 AM notcowardly

I'm not "cowardly" as others have been accused, but I AM afraid of the repercussions of speaking out. I've seen what happens to women that speak out against Mr Simkin's actions. I hope there's a detailed investigation (or three).

Dec 28, 2012 at 3:28 PM Bread and Butter


My dear friend, Dave! Please, dont call me a coward- it really hurts the soul man!

You can call me Arron if you'd like folks. That's with 2 r's.

Linda, Debbie, Justin, and "notcowardly", feel free to email me at 775214@comcast.net, I'd love to swap stories.

Sincerely and with a title that's worn with pride,
Bread and Butter

Dec 31, 2012 at 7:41 AM AlexRothchild

Does anyone know how to get in touch with either lee or justin baxter in regards to Frank? It's not terribly urgent just wanted to give them a heads up about something.

Dec 31, 2012 at 8:40 AM Franks helper

Simkin did steal the biz from the Baxters. Frank Baxter was a caring giving man, and simkin took advantage of Frank (and Anna) until he had what he wanted. The NPS is doing this right and should be supported for their efforts in bringing in a quality ( and ethical) vendor to run JACK's Boathouse.

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