Jack's Boathouse Eviction Put on Hold; Future Uncertain
Like a Christmas miracle, the National Park Service has put on hold the termination of its lease with Jack's Boathouse, the popular canoe and kayak renting facility on the Potomac River in the shadow of Key Bridge.
“In the last 24 hours, I have received hundreds of emails from citizens concerned with the future of Jack’s Boathouse,” said National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis in a statement on Christmas Eve, according to the Washington Post. The Park Service director added that he had “directed the staff at the park and the Regional Office to withhold further action on the lease termination until I have conducted a thorough review and determined the best course of action.”
A Dec. 18 letter from the National Park Service to Paul Simkin, owner of Jack's Canoes & Kayaks, LLC, informed him that his business had until the end of January to vacate the property.
The news that Jack's Boathouse would be closed -- first reported by the Georgetowner -- launched a barrage of comments on various news websites as well as on Jack's Boathouse Facebook page and a petition page for Jack's on Change.org
Owner Paul Simkin found the comments "heartening" and responded in kind: "We are beyond overjoyed. While there is much work still to be done to ensure a future at the boathouse, we are hoping beyond hope that we will be able to be there for our customers and that our great staff will be able to hold on to their jobs. We can't even begin to thank everyone for their support. We don't know where this is going to go yet, but we do know that we couldn't be this far without your love. This is an extraordinarily Merry Christmas for the entire Jack's family, and we hope to see you on the water this summer."
Despite the good will toward Jack's and the pause by the Park Service on its decision to end its lease with Jack's, Simkin remains uncertain about the boathouse's future. "At a Dec. 26 meeting with the Park Service, I was trying to find a win-win situation," he said. "Let's just say it was frustrating and less than helpful."
Reminded by Park Service officials that they were only interested in following the law, Simkin was also told, he said, that "the National Park Service director will decide when the director decides."
The NPS says that it wants a boathouse at the 3500 K Street location but has not said what that will be. After the completion of Georgetown Waterfront Park, the Park Service turned its attention to the shoreline near Key Bridge and west along the shoreline of the Potomac River. It has held meetings for a study to examine "the feasibility of implementing a non- motorized boathouse zone."
According to the NPS, "the project area includes the waterfront land from immediately upstream of the Georgetown Waterfront Park at 34th Street, to approximately 1,200 feet upstream of Key Bridge, including federal properties north of Water Street / K Street. The purpose of this study is to identify speciﬁc ways NPS can enhance access to the river for user groups and complement the riverside experiences provided by the Georgetown Waterfront Park, part of Rock Creek Park, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park."
The fear for some -- including Simkin -- is that Jack's Boathouse will not be part of the Park Service's vision for an enhanced Georgetown shoreline.
Despite remaining unsure of his business's situation, Simkin praised Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, whose 2010 wedding reception was at the boathouse. "He has been a guardian angel to us," Simkin said. "He has made all the difference in the world, reaching out to the mayor and the Park Service and calling during Christmas. The whole staff is incredibly touched by his commitment to Jack's."
Simkin said that he has grown Jack's seasonal customer base from 4,000 four years ago to 72,000 in 2012. The boathouse was opened in 1945 by Jack Baxter, a former D.C. police officer. It now employs 27 persons, mostly college students.