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The controversy over Jack’s Boathouse is heating up, and D.C.’s representative in Congress just weighed in.

The National Park Service is seeking to end its longterm relationship with the popular Georgetown boathouse and open up the space to bids for a concession contract, which it hopes to award by the end of next month. Jack’s owner Paul Simkin objects to the move, alleging 1) that NPS has been hostile to him; 2) that the bidding competition won’t be fair; 3) that NPS hasn’t been holding up its end of the deal by maintaining the waterfront facilities; and 4) that the land doesn’t belong to NPS in the first place. NPS disputes these charges, and the matter has been referred to the D.C. attorney general for a ruling.

But in the meantime, political pressure on NPS is beginning to mount. Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, who referred the case to the attorney general, says he’ll do what he can to back Jack’s. And just now, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton sent a letter to NPS Director Jon Jarvis urging him to sit down with Simkin and work out a solution that doesn’t force Jack’s to leave.

“I was concerned and puzzled when the National Park Service (NPS) abruptly terminated Jack’s Boathouse’s lease,” Norton wrote. “I was even more troubled to learn that NPS decided to move ahead with business as usual and open requests for proposals for a concession contract as if there were no differences between the circumstances at Jack’s Boathouse and the usual NPS concession contract.”

Norton wrote that Simkin had made “significant investments in what you believed to be NPS-owned property,” including much of his retirement savings, and that the changes have been well received by the community. (Simkin says his customer base has increased for 4,000 people four years ago to 72,000 people this past boating season.)

“While securing the best deal for the taxpayer, NPS has an obligation to explain its complicity in allowing significant investments in this property and then terminating the lease without notice,” Norton wrote. “NPS has an obligation to ensure fairness to Simkin, to the taxpayers, and to the community. The present posture of NPS promises only more controversy, lawsuits, and interruption of service to the community. A solution consistent with federal law and regulations that takes into account the unusual circumstances of the Jack’s Boathouse matter is quite possible. I urge you to take the time to sit down with all the parties to work through a reasonable solution.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery