Park Service Puts Boathouse Area Up for Bid; Jack’s Attorney to File Complaint by Friday
By February 15, 2013 0 889•
The National Park Service has reviewed its temporary halt to an eviction of Jack’s Boathouse and wrote to Jack’s on Jan. 18 that it has decided “to issue a new temporary concession contract for non-motorized boat rental and storage devices and to allow you to continue your operations until such time as the contract is awarded, provided that your occupancy comports with National Park Service standards . . .”
The Jan. 18 letter from NPS regional director Stephen Whitesell to Jack’s Boathouse owner Paul Simkin rescinds the Park Service’s Dec. 18 letter sent to the popular canoe and kayak renting facility on the Potomac River in the shadow of Key Bridge that first brought up the eviction — and howls of protest in late December from fans of Jack’s.
The Park Service wrote in its Jan. 18 letter to Simkin that it “will release a Request for Qualification (RFQ) for non-motorized boat rental and storage devices at or near the location of the present operation. We will evaluate all responsive proposals, including yours should you wish to submit one . . . “ The deadline to respond is in two-and-a-half weeks, Feb. 6.
Meanwhile, Charles Camp, attorney for Jack’s Boathouse LLC, will file a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the end of the week, he said.
Camp said, “I am more convinced than ever that the National Park Service does not the power to do this [evict Jack’s]. Camp said he has looked over the letter of exchange and cited the assigned duties and rent but said there is “not a lease,” and he added, “The delegation of D.C. duties is to the National Park Foundation.”
There was no development allowed in the Park Service’s agreement with the District, Camp contended. “The NPS wants a concession there,” Camp said. “That’s development.”
Adding to his argument, Camp said, “Under the 1980s’ agreement [between D.C. and the NPS] rent money is to benefit the Georgetown waterfront.”
Understandably, Jack’s owner is clearly upset about this latest obstacle in his fight to remain on the shores of the Potomac and operate his business, a Georgetown tradition since the 1940s. Simkin has owned and run Jack’s since 2005. He has operated under a lease controlled by the Park Service that has not updated since 1982; the monthly rent remained a little more than $350 for years. Simkin said he has made significant improvements to the property that cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Several weeks ago, Simkin has retained attorney Charles Camp, who first wrote to Park Service, citing a detail of September 1985 reso- lution 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.”
Upon learning of the Jan. 18 letter, Simkin issued this statement: “We thought we were doing the right thing. We thought by following the rules, making our customers happy, increasing our customer base . . . approximately 18 -fold and creating a special environment that people from all-around the world, not just D.C., wanted to be a part of, that we were doing things the right way. Without being too cliche, it’s the American way. We somehow failed. I think we’ve just been too naive. We are being steamrolled into oblivion by the National Park Service, and we still don’t know why.”
“If this were a simple rent matter, we would have been happy to pay what was asked. We were never asked. In addition, we have now learned that they [the National Park Service] should have been paying, all of these years, for dock maintenance — something that has cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket.
“If something doesn’t change soon in the next few days, we are finished. Jack’s will be gone forever. The legal expenses here are killing us, as is the Park Service’s failure to respond to us in any meaningful way and leaving us absolutely in the dark. Its willingness to see a D.C. resource turned into a typical corporate entity will prevail. In fairness to my employees, I’ve had to tell them that the future at Jack’s appears bleak. That’s 27 persons.”