Washington, DC Politics — January 25, 2013 at 2:04 am

Norton Asks NPS to Sit Down With Jack’s Boathouse and Other Involved Parties to Work Out a Solution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Gwen Benson-Walker
January 24, 2013

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Norton Asks NPS to Sit Down With Jack’s Boathouse and Other Involved Parties to Work Out a Solution
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today sent a letter to National Park Service Director John Jarvis urging him to meet with Jack’s Boathouse and other relevant parties to work out a reasonable solution to the Jack’s Boathouse controversy.  Congresswoman Norton and her staff began looking into the matter when they read in the press that NPS was abruptly terminating its lease with Jack’s Boathouse after allowing it to operate for several years.  In her letter, Norton emphasized that she was especially troubled that NPS allowed Jack’s Boathouse owner, Paul Simkin, to make significant investments in the property only to terminate his lease and request proposals from the public for a concession contract.

“I strongly endorse competitive bidding as required by law,” Norton wrote.  “However, this was not a usual concession on NPS property.  While securing the best deal for the taxpayer, NPS has an obligation to explain its complicity in allowing significant investments in this property and then terminating the lease without notice.  NPS has an obligation to ensure fairness to Simkin, to the taxpayers, and to the community.  The present posture of NPS promises only more controversy, lawsuits, and interruption of service to the community.  A solution consistent with federal law and regulations that takes into account the unusual circumstances of the Jack’s Boathouse matter is quite possible.”  The full text of Norton’s letter follows.

January 24, 2013
 
Jonathan Jarvis
Director
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20240

Dear Director Jarvis,

My staff and I began to look into the Jack’s Boathouse issue when I read about it in the press several weeks ago.  Since then, our office has gathered what information we could from your office and from Jack’s Boathouse.  Considering what we have learned, I was concerned and puzzled when the National Park Service (NPS) abruptly terminated Jack’s Boathouse’s lease.  I was even more troubled to learn that NPS decided to move ahead with business as usual and open requests for proposals for a concession contract as if there were no differences between the circumstances at Jack’s Boathouse and the usual NPS concession contract.

Apparently, NPS allowed Jack’s Boathouse to operate on a month-to-month lease for several years while Paul Simkin made significant investments in what you believed to be NPS-owned property.  NPS allowed Simkin to make the most significant investments in the property in decades, investing what we are told were his retirement savings, approximately $450,000, to rebuild the boathouse when he assumed the lease in 2008.  NPS was well aware that he bought new boats, built a new dock, and made renovations to the boathouse, including adding a deck with grills and chairs.  This renovation has substantially improved the property and has been warmly received by the community, as indicated by the dramatic increase in customers from 4,000 people renting boats per summer to 72,000 people.

I have been informed that NPS was in discussions with Simkin this past summer about a three-year lease and then a one-year lease prior to the abrupt issuance of an eviction notice on Christmas Eve.  I strongly endorse competitive bidding as required by law.  However, this was not a usual concession on NPS property.  While securing the best deal for the taxpayer, NPS has an obligation to explain its complicity in allowing significant investments in this property and then terminating the lease without notice.  NPS has an obligation to ensure fairness to Simkin, to the taxpayers, and to the community.  The present posture of NPS promises only more controversy, lawsuits, and interruption of service to the community.  A solution consistent with federal law and regulations that takes into account the unusual circumstances of the Jack’s Boathouse matter is quite possible.  I urge you to take the time to sit down with all the parties to work through a reasonable solution.

Sincerely,

Eleanor Holmes Norton

www.norton.house.gov
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