June 11, 2012
Dear Northern Virginia BoatU.S. Member:
Heads-up! The National Park Service is seeking comments on plans for the restoration of Dyke Marsh on the Potomac River. This has the potential to impact the adjacent Belle Haven Marina. We urge you to weigh-in with the Park Service on the future of this important boating facility.
Dyke Marsh and the Belle Haven Marina are a popular boating destination in the Washington, DC area. The marina provides a boat ramp, slips, sailboat rental, paddle craft rental and launch, and a sailing school. Over 1,200 youth and adults learn to sail every year through its nationally accredited program. Thousands more launch boats and paddle craft to fish, hunt, bird-watch and just enjoy the Potomac River. The marina serves education programs such as those of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Belle Haven Marina provides an array of crucial boater access to the Potomac River.
BoatU.S. has commented on these proposals, expressing concern that access to the water has not been sufficiently addressed. You can read our comments below.
We encourage you to provide your own views via the National Park Service website:
Comments are due by June 20th, 2012.
Thank you for being a BoatU.S. Member,
Comments of BoatU.S. regarding proposed Dyke Marsh Wetland Restoration and Long Term Management Plan
June 11, 2012
BoatU.S. is the largest organization of recreational boat owners in theUnited States, with more than 500,000 members nationwide and over 51,000 members inVirginia,Marylandand theDistrict of Columbia. Our members enjoy this family friendly activity on all types of water around the country, using a wide range of sizes and styles of boats.
Dyke Marsh and the Belle Haven Marina are a popular boating destination for many in theWashingtonarea. The marina provides a boat ramp, slips, sailboat rental, paddle craft rental and launch, and a sailing school. Some 1,200 youth and adults learn to sail every year through its nationally accredited program. Thousands more launch boats and paddle craft to fish, hunt, bird-watch and just enjoy thePotomac River. The marina serves education programs such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Potomac River Program. BoatU.S. utilizes the marina to introduce new employees to recreational boating.
We appreciate the delicate balance the National Park Service (NPS) must strike in fulfilling its mission of providing access to Dyke Marsh and thePotomac Riverwhile preserving the very elements that make these natural areas such attractive destinations. With their close proximity to metropolitanWashington, preserving public access to the marsh and river via support and enhancement of the Belle Haven Marina must be a primary goal of any new management plan.
It is important to recognize the importance of maintaining the connection to the water that facilities such as Belle Haven Marina provide, particularly in an urban area such asWashington. For disadvantaged youth, on the water experiences are only made possible by having this kind of recreational facility supported. All of the alternative management proposals limit access for the public and the recreational boater, a management philosophy that directly contradicts the intent of President Obama in hisAmerica's Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative. A key recommendation to come out of the President’s initiative is the following (emphasis added):
Recommendation 2.1 — Support outdoor recreation access and opportunities on public lands by establishing a Federal Interagency Committee on Outdoor Recreation.
Despite the major opportunities for quality recreation, many participants in the AGO process observed that significant obstacles remain to outdoor recreation on public lands and waters.
Sadly, Alternatives B, C and D do nothing to fulfill the President’s promise. While we recognized an interest on the part of some to restore the marsh to a particular historic level, we are concerned that all of the alternative plans will have a negative impact on public access. Alternatives C and D would be particularly harmful, placing marsh grasses in most of the areas recreational boats are currently able to travel.
Alternative B, while appearing to have only some impact on boating access, will create a safety concern for smaller craft such as canoes and kayaks. The filling of the area near the “haul road” will force these smaller craft out into the more exposed portions of thePotomac Riverin order to access the southern areas of the marsh. Given the many youth groups that paddle Dyke Marsh, this is very troubling. It is also likely this filling will create a stagnant back-water around the Belle Haven Marina facilities, possible leading to silting of the marina.
President Obama followed through on the AGO recommendation on June 13, 2011, when he created the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation headed by Secretary Salazar and three other Cabinet officials. As a stakeholder organization that is actively engaged in the AGO process, we note several tasks charged to the new Council that are of particular significance in our review of the Dyke Marsh Restoration Plan:
Task: Coordinate recreation management, access and policies across multiple agencies to improve public enjoyment and recreational use of federal lands.
Task: Improve engagement of young people and their families in outdoor recreation through healthy, active lifestyles.
Task: Identify ways to improve access to and benefits from our parks, refuges, and other public lands, waters, and shores for persons with disabilities.
Task: Target underserved and disadvantaged communities for both access and engagement in the benefits of and opportunities for outdoor recreation.
We urge the Park Service to revisit its plans for Dyke Marsh with an eye towards meeting the national recommendations contained in the AGO initiative.