The county’s dream of a new rowing facility along the Potomac River is becoming a reality, albeit slowly.
County officials and members of the National Park Service came to some agreements in meetings this summer, settling on three proposed sites. The Park Service owns much of the land along Arlington’s riverbanks but made an agreement, according to U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8), to grant Arlington recreational access to the river.
The rowing facility — a dock where row boats and crew teams can launch onto the river — is an on-going effort that has lasted almost 10 years, Moran said.
“I think we’ll come to a meeting of the minds,” he said. “We have put hundreds of thousands into studying all of the proposed locations. Now, it is time to move.”
THE ONLY CURRENT place to launch boats in Arlington is a marina near the Pentagon that only allows power boats.
Washington-Lee, Yorktown and Wakefield high schools each have rowing clubs that could use the facility, according to Brian Hannigan, chairman of the Arlington Sports Commission.
“At the moment, the three high schools have to go over to Georgetown to use their rowing house," Hannigan said.
Arlingtonians want this project to begin construction, Moran said.
“It’s something I’m hearing, not just from the high school groups and the sports clubs but also from parents and adults who would use it,” he said. “They see how this could be a terrific benefit for everyone in the county.”
THE PREFERRED SITE for the project is north of a parking lot by a bridge that leads over to nearby Roosevelt Island. With parking facilities already in place, the National Park Service thinks it is the most logical choice.
“Any other locations require the construction of a lot, but this one already has it,” said Bill Lines, spokesman for the Park Department.
Lines added that the impact study won’t be complete until spring of 2004 and the design of the facility has yet to be decided. “Construction on this project is a long time down the road,” he said.
Yet the funding drive for the rowing docks is already underway. In the House of Representatives, Moran most recently rallied congressional support for the project with an item added to the recently approved Omnibus bill that instructs the Park Service to continue its negotiations with Arlington County toward completion of project. In a highway transportation bill also approved this session, he secured a $1 million grant to build a pedestrian footbridge over the George Washington Parkway to the site.
“When I was the mayor of Alexandria, a rowing facility was built,” Moran said. “Adults used it, schools and other teams used it to get out and enjoy the water. It was a wonderful asset for recreation and Arlington should really have one.”
One proposed idea for the site, he added, is a free-floating dock moored to the riverbank. This means crew teams and local residents could launch boats without the need for constructing a permanent building.
The design, according to Moran, would cost about $500,000 to $1 million. Park Service staff, he added, have said they may contribute with federal funds if that design was put in place because it would have a minimal impact on the site.
The two remaining sites include a section of land just under the Key Bridge in Rosslyn and the land on the south side of parking lot near Roosevelt Island.
If the rowing facility is constructed, the Park Service will maintain control of the surrounding land, according to Moran.