Millions for a Boathouse, Zero for Park Acquisition

Comments at Arlington Capital Improvement Plan Hearing on June 29, 2021.

I am both an avid kayaker and patron of boathouses on the DC side of the river. Yet I join with opponents of the upper Rosslyn Boathouse project in urging the Board to remove funding for it in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) on both environmental and procedural grounds. In particular I want to emphasize the following points.

The project would denude the park at 1101 Lee Highway of mature tree canopy. Some argue that it’s okay to clear cut a site if doing so will remove invasive trees. This argument is of dubious validity here, since 1101 Lee Highway is located on the fall line of the Piedmont Plateau, where the impacts of runoff generated erosion are significantly greater than elsewhere in Northern Virginia. 

While the Public Spaces Master Plan (PSMP) recommends that the County collaborate with the National Park Service (NPS) to develop a boathouse for non-motorized boating (p. 68), the County has never conducted a public process to determine a location for the boathouse or the need for a support facility that would clear cut a vulnerable natural area.   Funding the boathouse in the CIP would not only preempt such a process in the future, the lack of public participation in this decision directly contravenes the County’s recently adopted resolution to promote equity, diversion and inclusion in its planning processes.

The County and the NPS never solicited formal recommendations from any of its own commissions when the NPS prepared its Environmental Assessment for the Arlington County and Vicinity Boathouse in 2018.

Going forward, County commissions will have no opportunity to weigh in on this important project even though they have the prerogative to do so.

There are alternatives to denuding Rosslyn of its last wooded public space. Gravelly Point offers an excellent location for an Arlington boathouse. Unlike the upper Rosslyn site, Gravelly Point contains only mowed grass, a few trees, a large parking lot and a ramp for transporting small boats into the river. From both an environmental and recreational perspective, Gravelly Point is the preferred alternative for a Rosslyn boathouse.

Finally there is no funding for new parks in the proposed CIP. Removal of boathouse funding would free up funds for needed parkland acquisition, a key priority of the PSMP.

I therefore urge the Board to remove the $4.755 million allocation for the Rosslyn boathouse and support facility from the County Manager’s proposed CIP.