The Old Dominion Boat Club will remain a local institution

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By LaDonna Hale Curzon Member, Old Dominion 
Boat Club
(File Photo) 

To the editor:

Thanks to the Alexandria City Council, this community must say goodbye to one of its oldest landmarks: the Old Dominion Boat Club’s clubhouse. One of the oldest boat clubs in the country, this group, established in 1880, proudly calls 1 King Street its home.

Last month, the club’s members were forced — under threat of eminent domain — to vote to sell this highly sought real estate to the city in exchange for another location and $5 million. Despite winning every legal battle in court against the city for 40 years, including at the level of the state Supreme Court, the city’s ace up its sleeve — eminent domain — forced the club to fold.

The Alexandria City Council has tarnished its sterling reputation for preservation by doing so. The boat club has been anchored in Alexandria for 134 years. The boat club is, in fact, older than two other famous local landmarks: the George Washington Masonic National Memorial at the other end of King Street and the Torpedo Factory located next door to the clubhouse.

The boat club introduced rowing to Alexandria and now the high school is recognized internationally as a crew powerhouse. The high school’s boathouse and rowing facility, another landmark, is the pride of the city.

One has to wonder why Alexandria’s city councilors prefer to spend $5 million plus the millions they shelled out to buy the Beachcomber property, which is where the boat club will relocate, when the city is in the throes of financial distress to the point where critical services are in serious jeopardy. A public plaza is more important than city services? Really? Why doesn’t the city council ask taxpayers and residents before they blow their money on decades of litigation and, eventually, a plaza?

Although the clubhouse will be moving, the group’s presence in Alexandria is not going anywhere. The club will continue supporting charitable causes as it has done since its inception. The boat club will continue to financially support Alexandria’s police officers, T.C. Williams’ rowing program, boat safety programs, veterans, The Salvation Army, cancer lymphoma research, local parades and the ever popular lighted boat parade that draws thousands of holiday shoppers to Old Town.

And the club’s nearly 800 members and their guests will continue to shop and dine in Old Town, supporting local businesses.

The club may be moving, but it will remain an active and loyal member of the Old Town community for at least another 134 years.