Canoe Group Sues Over River Closures at Trump Golf Club

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s privately owned northern Virginia golf club has plenty of water hazards along its two courses, but none as bad -- in the eyes of the government -- as the nearby Potomac River, which is closed to canoe and kayak enthusiasts when he’s there.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security last year mandated a riverbank-to-riverbank blockade where the river flows past the Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, establishing a security zone to prevent waterside threats while the president or other high-ranking officials are there.

On Thursday, the Canoe Cruisers Association of Greater Washington DC sued to void that measure, claiming the exclusionary zone is unnecessarily wide and that the regulation establishing it was adopted in violation of federal rule-making procedures.

"The Coast Guard revoked the public’s legal right to access a public, navigable waterway with no notice and with no public process, including an opportunity for the public to comment or provide input," the group said in the complaint, filed in federal court in Greenbelt, Maryland. "It provided no end date for the restoration of the public’s legal right to access the river."

Trump National is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of the White House. The president has played there at least 30 times since the rule took effect and at least seven times beforehand, according to the filing. His guests have included Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Republican U.S. Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Trump acquired the 800-acre property in 2009. Membership starts with initiation fees ranging from $10,000 to $300,000 plus dues, according to a New York Times report cited in the complaint.

The course has factored into other Trump controversies. The president claims that Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing his 2016 campaign’s ties with Russia, has a conflict-of-interest because of a 2011 dispute with Trump National over membership fees, The Washington Post reported last year.

The section of the river that gets shut down is about two miles long and among the most popular stretches for canoeists, kayakers and other recreational users, according to Canoe Cruisers, which had lobbied for the Maryland-shore edge of the river to remain open when security measures are in force.

The canoeists cite the river’s mix of moving and still waters in the area, and proximity to popular features such as the Seneca Breaks rapids and the George Washington Canal, for its popularity.

The association, based in Montgomery County, Maryland, offers lessons and outings and promotes watershed conservation according to its website. The group was founded in 1956 and draws members from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The case is Canoe Cruisers Association of Greater Washington DC v Schultz, 18-cv-2914, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Greenbelt).

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