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National Park Service delays plan to close canoe rental business

Tuesday - 12/25/2012, 1:20pm  ET

jacks.jpg
The Park Service owns most of the property which is located about 100 feet west of the Key Bridge on Water Street NW in Georgetown. Simkin owns a small piece of the land. (Courtesty jacksboathouse.com)

Thomas Warren, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - After a flood of emails from concerned citizens, the National Park Service has delayed its plan to shut down Jack's Boathouse the landmark canoe rental service along the Georgetown Waterfront.

"I can assure all those concerned that the boat house operation will continue into the future as it is an important public service," National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said in a statement.

On December 18, Simkin received a letter from the Park Service saying his lease was being terminated, and he had to be off the property by January 31st.

The Park Service owns most of the property which is located about 100 feet west of the Key Bridge on Water Street NW in Georgetown. Simkin owns a small piece of the land.

"I have directed the staff at the park and the Regional Office to withhold further action on the lease termination until I have conducted a thorough review and determined the best course of action," Jarvis says further in the statement.

Though, it's still unclear how long the business will be allowed to operate.

"I am absolutely touched that on the Christmas holiday so many folks made time to email and call the National Park Service and White House to save Jack's from eviction from its home of 70 years," Simkin says in a statement to WTOP.

He also thanked Ward-2 (D) Councilman Jack Evans, who held his wedding reception at the boathouse a few years ago.

Supporters created a Facebook page, and online petition to keep Jack's from closing down.

Simkin staffs 27 employees, many of whom are young college students.

"For folks it wasn't just a matter of that it's a summer job or it's a summer thing. This is a way of life. You become part of the river," says Simkin, who calls himself a paddle boat enthusiast.

The boat house is usually open from April 15 through Halloween night. Although, this year it closed early because of Hurricane Sandy.

Jack's is named after Jack Baxter, a former D.C. police officer, who first opened the boathouse in 1945.

Along with canoe, kayak, and paddle boat rentals, customers can grill on the deck during the open season. Three hundred boats are stored on the lot.

Simkin says in the four years since he's taken over, business has grown from 4,000 to more than 70,000 customers a year.

"It's not even about boats," Simkin says. "It's about carving an hour out of a day where your mind can go somewhere else."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)