Jack’s Boathouse Eviction Paused; Owner Fights to Stay
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 Dec. 24 statement, 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.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office issued a statement on the situation Jan. 15: “Congresswoman Norton is so concerned about the situation at Jack’s Boathouse that we are sending a letter to the National Park Service outlining her concerns. Paul Simkin has not only kept open this facility, he has invested significantly in it, for the greater good of the community despite the NPS’s failure to maintain it.”
A week ago, Simkin retained lawyer Charles Camp, who wrote to Park Service, citing a detail of September 1985 resolution by the District Council, concerning the transfer of D.C. public land in the area around Jack’s: “The National Park Service shall assume responsibility to repair, maintain, and protect all wharves, piers, bulkheads, and similar structures that are located on the transferred land or in the adjacent waters.”
Camp further wrote to the NPS: “Unless you believe jurisdiction over the land occupied by Jack’s Boathouse has reverted back to the District of Columbia, and given that my client needs to have Jack’s Boathouse fully up and ready for the next season by March 7, 2013, I ask that you promptly begin making necessary repairs and maintenance to ‘all wharves, piers, bulkheads, and similar structures that are located on’ the property occupied by Jack’s, including such structures ‘in the adjacent waters.’” Simkin’s dilemma is that his business is only a few weeks from opening and he does not know “whether to order boats, bring back employees or even paint signs,” he said. He does not understand, he said, why the Park Service will not tell him what is going on.
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.”
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.”