Bay Journal

Park Service to close Anacostia marina

NPS looking for ways to increase access to the river despite shuttering Buzzard Point Marina

  • By Whitney Pipkin on September 11, 2015
  • Comments are closed for this article.
Buzzard Point Marina, home to 60 boats, will close this fall. (photo by Whitney Pipkin)

Despite efforts to increase residents’ access to the Anacostia River — and to continue making its waters clean enough that people want to access it — the National Park Service said this week it will close one of eight marinas on the river.

Nearly 60 boat owners currently use Buzzard Point Marina, located near the Anacostia’s confluence with the Potomac River, and have been notified to move their boats before the marina closes at the end of the year.

A third-party concessioner called Buzzard Point Boatyard Corporation has operated the NPS-owned marina for more than 50 years. But the facility does not make enough money to fund the upgrades necessary to continue operating the facility.

“Closing the marina is not a decision that was made lightly,” NPS Superintendent Gopaul Noojibali said in a press release, which also stated that the park service will work with the community to determine the best future use for the property.

In the meantime, the NPS will remove the docks, upgrade the boat ramp and maintain the park service-owned areas.

The concessioner’s contract was extended to the end of this year, and NPS officials have known for some time that it would be difficult to continue it much longer. Public law requires that the facility be upgraded to current standards — and that its operators have “a reasonable opportunity to make a profit,” said NPS spokeswoman Emily Linroth.

It became clear that the facility could not do both.

“We recognize the value that the marina provides to the community in terms of getting people out on the river,” said Linroth, “We’ve worked with the (boat owners) to make sure they know of neighboring marinas.”

The NPS also owns the newer James Creek Marina that is visible from Buzzard Point Marina and operated by a different concessioner. Boat owners were notified of available slips at all the other marinas on the river and Linroth said there should be room to accommodate them after the winter.

Jim Foster, president of the Anacostia Watershed Society, said he wasn’t surprised to hear that Buzzard Point Marina would be closing. (Readers of a recent Yelp review about the marina’s service might not be surprised either.)

“We’ve been talking about it for four years,” he said, adding that the closure and the wait to determine what’s next “really speaks to the bigger picture of development pressure in that area.”

Much of the area near the marina and west of Nationals Park is under construction or blighted. Most of the buildings and lots are either vacant, filled with construction vehicles or actively being redeveloped.

“It’s the calm before the storm,” Foster said. “That whole area is going to be transformed.”

Foster said he will work with the NPS to determine how the park lands could best be used in lieu of a marina. The one thing he doesn’t want is for the marina that had one of the lowest slip rates in the area to become “an exclusive marina” that limits access for more people.

Linroth said the NPS is open to ideas for how the riverside land could be used to increase access to the river. The NPS owns much of the land along the Anacostia River, where it recently created an Anacostia Water Trail that connects many of the sites and paths along the river.

“To be designated as a water trail is a pretty high honor,” she said. “That’s evidence (that) we’re very committed to investing in the watershed.”

About Whitney Pipkin
Whitney Pipkin writes at the intersection of food, agriculture and the environment from her home base in Northern Virginia. Her work for the Bay Journal often focuses on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, and she is a fellow of the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
Read more articles by Whitney Pipkin


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Terri Thompson on September 28, 2015:

This article is a disappointment. It mis-characterizes the facts, particularly regarding the economics of the Buzzard Point Marina concession. The facts are the National Park Service has prevented the concessionaire from making improvements to the property. As a result, the slip fees have not significantly increased in almost 20 years. The contract between the concession and the National Park Service allow the concessionaire to collect slip fees and make necessary repairs (not improvements) to the Marina. "The only significant money the National Park Service spends on Buzzard Point Marina, or any similar concession, is the cost of preparing and overseeing a contract for the winning concession; the concessionaire bears the operating and improvement costs. Should the National Park Service issue a 10-year prospectus, including incremental goals, for a marina improvement plan, and a company both bid and met those goals (while earning enough to remain in business), that would be financially responsible. If such a contract brought no bid, then we might infer it is prohibitively expensive. Let the National Park Service prove what it claims."

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