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The Arlington Community Boathouse Frequently Asked Questions

The Arlington Boathouse Foundation is the community focal point for creating an Arlington Community Boathouse to access the Potomac River. Rowing, canoeing and kayaking are not just for the young or super athlete. These are lifetime sports that provide healthy, non-polluting recreation suitable for a wide range of ages and abilities. The greatest open, recreation space in the Metropolitan area is the surface of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. Public health and child development experts advocate increasingly for restoring our connection with the outdoors and natural world. Although Arlington has eight miles of Potomac River shoreline, it has no access to the water for rowing and canoeing/kayaking.

Even before Captain John Smith’s visit in 1608, Native Americans paddled the river from what is now Arlington’s Potomac River shoreline. As the area grew post-European settlement, the River was an avenue for commerce and a growing outlet for recreation. In the late 1800’s, the Analostan Boat Club was located on what is now Theodore Roosevelt Island, and, over the years, scores of Arlington residents using the Potomac as their training base have become Olympic rowing and canoeing athletes, World Championship medalists, US National team members and high school national champions.

Yet, since the 1930s Arlington residents had to access the river from the District or Alexandria. The George Washington Memorial Parkway severed Arlington’s access to its own shoreline. As a consequence, although the County pioneered American public high school rowing more than 60 years ago at Washington-Lee High School, no Arlington school or community program has been able to reach the water from the Virginia shoreline.

Now is the time, and Rosslyn is the place, for Arlington to regain access to the Potomac River.

Where will the Arlington Community Boathouse be located?

The site proposed is on Virginia’s Potomac River shoreline just south of Key Bridge in the Rosslyn section of Arlington County. It is adjacent to the existing paved parking lot for the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial and may be located under a portion of the existing bike and pedestrian overpass that crosses the George Washington Memorial Parkway from Rosslyn.

Does Arlington County own this site?

No. The Boathouse will require a government-to-government agreement between Arlington County and the National Park Service to use the shoreline area and link it with a County-owned parcel of land on the Rosslyn-end of the overpass for restrooms and assembly space. With the exception of Reagan Washington National Airport, the National Park Service owns and controls all the land along the Potomac in Arlington.

Why do we need an Arlington Community Boathouse?

Here are 5 key reasons:

  1. Access to the River is extremely limited not only for the County but also for residents and visitors throughout the metropolitan area. Arlington’s population, like that of the region continues to grow. With eight miles of shoreline, Arlington has no direct water access to the Potomac River for rowing and paddling.
  2. Hundreds of Arlington’s school-age kids must travel daily into and out of the District of Columbia on heavily travelled roads and bridges to use over-crowded existing rowing sites.
  3. The last boathouse for rowing and canoeing on the upper tidal Potomac was built more than a half century ago. Located in congested Georgetown, the Thompson’s Boat Center today has over a dozen active rowing programs plus the general public.
  4. Thompson’s Boat Center and other existing boathouses lack adequate boat storage. More boats are warehoused outdoors in fenced areas than are able to be kept inside the facility. The National Park Service has no plans or funds to expand or modernize this facility, and all others (Potomac BC and Washington Canoe Club) are similarly at maximum capacity.
  5. Arlington County’s access to the river for traditional boating was guaranteed by the Federal legislation that created the George Washington Memorial Parkway nearly 70 years ago. More recently, Executive Order 13508 and the plan for the nation’s first all-water national historic trail, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historical Trail, stress the need for improved public access to the Chesapeake Bay’s tidal rivers, such as the Potomac, especially from federally owned lands.

Will I be able to use the Boathouse?

Yes! The Arlington Community Boathouse will provide for community rowing and paddling, including basic instruction for novices and more advanced instruction and coaching depending on the level of interest. Boats will be owned and maintained by a cooperative organization of users so that people will not need to provide their own boats.

Who else will be able to use the Boathouse?

It is intended to be home base for Arlington County’s three public high school rowing programs, each involving up to 100 girls and boys at differing grade and skill levels. Kayaking and canoeing from the boathouse are also planned. Other possible additional community programs include: a recreation program to accommodate those with physical disabilities, particularly military service veterans; a mentored program for at-risk youth to develop craft-skills; and a base for outdoor and environmental educational programs.

Will the Boathouse block views of the river?

No! The proposed Arlington Community Boathouse will be largely “invisible” from the GW Parkway. Its innovative, earth-sheltered design tucks into the low hillside behind the Parkway’s stone safety wall. No views will be obstructed from the Parkway, and those crossing the Parkway bike overpass will see only a grassy expanse sloping toward the river.

Will the Boathouse be an environmentally friendly building?

Yes! The design is for a structure that would qualify for certification at the highest “green building” (LEED standards) level. The completed boathouse will have a green roof, natural lighting, and on-site storm water control. It will be a model of twenty-first century sustainable and highly functional design.

How will users get to the Boathouse?

The Arlington Community Boathouse is designed to take full advantage of existing mass transit options. Metrorail and Metro bus use Rosslyn as a hub. On-street parking and off-street parking lots are available throughout Rosslyn for motor vehicles. Access to the boathouse from Rosslyn will be by foot and bike (including BikeShare) via the existing bike and pedestrian Parkway overpass.

Bike parking will be available at the boathouse. Vehicular parking spaces for physically handicapped users will be designated in the existing visitors’ parking lot at Theodore Roosevelt Island.

How can I help to support the effort?

Here are several ways you can help:

  1. When the National Park Service requests public input, write comments and speak in favor of the project. The Arlington Boathouse Foundation website will provide links to documents and details on the timing of comments and scheduled public meetings.
  2. Contact your Arlington County Board members and Congressional representatives to let them know that you support an Arlington Community Boathouse to improve access to the Potomac River for residents and visitors.
  3. Contribute to the Arlington Boathouse Foundation. Since 1991 the Foundation has been the voluntary lead organization pursuing the dream of an Arlington boathouse. It is a non-profit charity recognized under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code to which donations are deductible for Federal income tax purposes. Contributions should be made payable to “The Arlington Boathouse Foundation, Inc.” and send to the foundation at P.O. Box 7434, Arlington, VA 22207.