‘Security Zone’ To Close Part of River to Boaters

‘Security Zone’ To Close Part of River to Boaters

Coast Guard cites safeguarding high-ranking U.S. officials when they are at Trump National Golf Club.

Map of area to be closed to paddlers when President Trump plays at his golf course.

Map of area to be closed to paddlers when President Trump plays at his golf course. U.S. Coast Guard


Kayakers paddle on the Potomac River near Riley's Lock across the river from Trump National Golf Club.

Boating enthusiasts and small businesses that use the Potomac River near Riley’s Lock are concerned about a recent U.S. Coast Guard notification establishing a “security zone” on that section of river which will keep people off a portion of the river “to safeguard high-ranking United States officials at the Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Virginia.”

Among the high ranking officials who use the club is President Donald Trump.

The names of other ranking officials or the number of those included as needing safety measures requiring the closing of the river was not mentioned in the Coast Guard notice.

“The security zone includes all navigable water of the Potomac River, from shoreline to shoreline, within an area bounded on the east by a line connecting the following points: latitude 39°04’02” W. ,longitude 077°20’02” W., and bounded on the west by longitude 077°22’ 06” W., located in Montgomery County, Md.,” according to the notice.

That closes the Potomac River for public use from just above Violette’s Lock to Sharpshin Island, the first island upriver from Riley’s Lock. Seneca Creek, a much used entry point for river sports, flows into the river at the Riley’s Lock aqueduct.

With well-defined boundaries, and possible fines for violation listed as up to $90,063, the biggest unanswered question is: How to know when the ban is in effect? When is it safe to look forward to a canoe, kayak, or power boat outing on the river or plan a fishing trip without worry of a last minute cancellation because a “high-ranking official” is golfing across the water?

“The Coast Guard has told us they will announce the closure of the river on VHF channel 16, which implies that the river may only be closed when [President] Trump is playing golf,” according to Susan Sherrod, chairman of the Canoe Cruisers Association, a local canoe club, in an email. “While sea kayakers who paddle the ocean or bay may carry hand held VHF radios, river paddlers do not.”

Adam Van Grack, a lawyer with Longman & Van Grack and a long-time kayaker, said he is representing Calleva and Active Nature, two outdoor education organizations that use the Potomac River at Riley’s Lock. Calleva uses Seneca Creek and the Potomac River daily for its summer camp programs.

“I’ve been advised that under Federal Regulation you have the opportunity to file an official comment to the Coast Guard,” Van Grack said.

He said the businesses have a lot to lose when the river is closed and he is filing a comment on their behalf.

Van Grack also said that at one point while paddling he was asked to leave the river by armed guards in a motorboat.

“Up until recently they have been asking people to move away from the Virginia shore, which I did,” he said. That was no problem, no big deal.”

But with the new regulations it seems like it is a big deal.

“The truly ironic thing is; if Trump had not cut down all the trees and brush along the Potomac shoreline, his golf course would be protected by nature,” Sherrod wrote in an email.

She is referring to the estimated more than 400 trees and shrubs Trump had removed along the river.

The Trump National Golf Club, which Trump purchased in 2009, is an 800-acre property that slopes down to the Potomac River and includes two 18-hole golf courses in addition to a club house, swimming pool, indoor tennis facility and a fitness center.

Comments on the Coast Guard river closing must be made by Aug. 9. They should be made at http://www.regulations.gov mention docket number USCG-2017-0448.