Canoeists claim victory on access to Potomac River near Trump’s golf club

Coast Guard publishes a new rule creating an access corridor

Area canoeists are claiming a legal victory over access restrictions in the Potomac River. (CQ Roll Call file photo)
Area canoeists are claiming a legal victory over access restrictions in the Potomac River. (CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted March 22, 2019 at 4:06pm

A group of area canoeists is claiming victory after the Coast Guard announced new regulations that will make it easier for paddlers to float down the Potomac River while President Donald Trump is at his Northern Virginia golf club.

“The paddling community has a voice and we effectively used it to execute change,” Canoe Cruisers Chairman Barbara Brown said in a statement. “The Potomac River is for the American people and we’re glad to see their access to it restored.”

The Coast Guard published an interim rule and requested comment on narrowing access restrictions to the Potomac River near the Trump National Golf Club in Loudoun County, Va., which is adjacent to the river.

“This rule reduces the overall length of the existing security zone and creates a 250-yard-wide transit lane that provides passage for vessels through the zone near the Maryland shoreline with permission of the Captain of the Port (COTP) or designated representative. This rule continues to prohibit vessels and people from entering the security zone unless specifically exempt under the provisions in this rule or granted specific permission from the COTP Maryland-National Capital Region or designated representative,” the Coast Guard said in a Thursday notice.

Trump frequents the Virginia country club in the warmer months.

The Coast Guard and Secret Service disagreed with critics who argued that no security zones were needed, even though the nearby part of the Potomac is most frequently used by canoeists, kayakers and similar boaters.

“The Coast Guard recognizes that anyone can use any waterborne vessel, including paddle craft, to operate with malicious intent against USSS protectees,” the Coast Guard said. “Therefore, the agency has concluded the security zone is necessary. To accommodate waterway users, the Coast Guard is adding a transit lane that allows use of this segment of the river while the Coast Guard, along with the USSS, maintains appropriate levels of security.”

The Canoe Cruisers Association of Greater Washington DC filed a lawsuit along with Democracy Forward seeking to end the previous security zone that blocked river access while Trump was golfing.

Aside from the recreational needs of local boaters, there were also First Amendment concerns raised about the scope of the prior restriction.

“This is a victory for the rule of law that says the President cannot arbitrarily restrict the public’s access to our shared natural resources to accommodate his frequent golf outings,” Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy said in a statement.