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Potomac River Closure for Golfing Officials Sparks Controversy

Posted: 07/20/2017
by Kevin Colburn

Several newspapers reported this week that the Coast Guard is proposing to close a portion of a popular section of the Potomac River whenever high-ranking government officials are playing golf at Trump National Golf Club. DC area paddlers quickly balked at the proposal and Congressional leaders have joined them in pushing back against the proposal. 

The Coast Guard has posted their proposed closure rules, and an opportunity to comment online until August 9, 2017. Respectful comments that show how the closure will harm paddlers and how it could be improved through selection of alternatives are best. Comments from affected small businesses or organizations will be especially effective. Consider also sharing your comments with your Congressional representatives.

The proposed rule would create a permanent security zone on the river reach, and the Coast Guard would essentially be able to close the river "before, during, and after" "periodic" "high security events." They propose to alert paddlers of the closures via marine radio broadcasts, which of course paddlers do not use. It is unknown how frequently the closures will occur in the decades to come, for what duration, and who qualifies as a high ranking official. 

Alternatives certainly exist that allow both public use of the river and secure use of the private golf course. The closure could simply require that paddlers pass through the area along the far shore of the 0.35-mile wide river, just a few feet from the still-open C&O Canal National Historic Park, which includes road access, parking and other visitor facilities directly across from the golf course. Alternately, the golf course could install a fence or wall between the course and the river and restore riparian vegetation.

American Whitewater will be filing comments with the Coast Guard requesting these alternatives be considered, and that whatever policy is put in place allows the public to paddle through this area and utilize Riley's Lock access area as a takeout and Violet's Lock as a launch point for the rapids of the Patowmack Canal just downstream. Click Comment Now on this page to share your constructive comments with the Coast Guard.