President Donald J. Trump’s golf game is creating a handicap for more than just his fellow players.
The Coast Guard is enforcing a security zone around Trump’s golf course in Sterling that keeps all boaters out of the water entirely around a 2-mile section of the Potomac River, where youngsters are spending their summer learning to paddle their canoes and wounded veterans are enjoying a regular Sunday afternoon boat ride.
Under the Coast Guard ruling, which went into effect July 10, all boaters will be ordered out of the water “to prevent waterside threats and incidents immediately before, during and after events” held at the Trump National Golf Club.”
Directors of both Team River Runner and Camp Calleva, which frequent that area of the Potomac by Seneca Creek, called this devastating news that would virtually end their long-established programs, for fear that the veterans or campers could be ordered out of the water at any time.
Under a security zone, anyone in the area would have to go to the nearest land and would not be allowed to return to wherever their program is located.
And while those officials were quick to say they understood and supported the need for presidential security, they questioned how far the ruling extended.
“That would be very devastating, very devastating,” said Matthew Markoff, director and founder of Camp Calleva, which has run a “liquid adventures” program for children for 24 years.
“My fear is that I send kids out, and there is a security zone, I can’t get them back,” he said. He hasn’t faced this problem before and even counts former presidential children as campers at the camp.
“It’s just a really big river. To close off access to us is very extreme. A kid in a canoe, paddling, how dangerous is that? We are not going anywhere fast,” Markoff said.
Joe Mornini, executive director of Team River Runner, a program for wounded veterans and their families to get together on Sundays and enjoy watersports.
Veterans understand the need for security and engage in other watersports in the area where Seneca Creek meets the Potomac, Mornini said. But he believes “we can work this out. “We are literally a half-mile across the river in Maryland,” and the river “is really not all that deep in the summer,” he said.
He suggested that the Coast Guard or Secret Service put out buoys, and “we would respect the space.”
He heard that his program would be notified by marine radio when the river was closed for security reasons, but said, “We don’t even have a marine radio.”
If the total closure of parts of the river by Old Angler’s Inn around Great Falls, under the Key Bridge by Georgetown and by Riley’s Lock at the mouth of Seneca Creek, is enforced, Team River Runners will probably end its program rather than face the prospect of stranding wounded veterans, who already “have enough stress in their lives,” Mornini said.
Markoff said his year-round program where children learn to raft, paddleboat, sail and kayak would either have to find a new location or only conduct the part of the camp that is on land.
Five-hundred children come to Camp Cavella weekly, he said. Generally, they are in the middle of the river, but they could “hug the shore” in Maryland if need be.
The Coast Guard currently is conducting an interim review, and written comments about the security closing will be accepted until Aug. 9. More than 325 comments have been submitted. The security zone, however, will remain in effect during the interim period.