WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP)— The National Park Service has awarded a two-year contract to a Massachusetts company to rent boats and kayaks at a longtime boating facility along the Georgetown waterfront.
The agency announced Friday it selected B&G Outdoor Recreation Inc. of Hopkinton, Mass., for the boating contract. The group is also known as Boating in Boston and runs six boat rental locations in the Boston area.
The new contractor replaces Jack’s Boathouse, which has been operating at the site since 1945. Jack’s was on a month-to-month lease that hadn’t changed since 1982, but NPS said it was not in the name of current owner Paul Simkin. Officials sent Simkin an eviction letter in December, prompting outcry from supporters.
NPS said then that it wanted to treat the business like other commercial ventures inside national parks. Simkin was free to bid for the concession contract, but the agency said he did not take the opportunity to do so.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton entered the discussion in January by asking NPS to talk things out with Simkin. Norton said she appreciates NPS trying to get the best deal for taxpayers but is troubled by the announcement, especially after the owner poured his retirement savings into upgrading the property.
In a letter to National Park Service Director John Jarvis dated Jan. 24, she wrote:
“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.”
There was a petition on change.org to save Jack’s. It was organized by the same man who fought to save the National Mall’s “Screen on the Green.”
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