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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

Places in Washington DC

Norton Urges U.S. Capitol Police to Permit Sledding on Capitol Grounds

Feb 24, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today wrote U.S. Capitol Police Board Chair Frank Larkin urging the board to overturn of the prohibition on sledding on the Capitol Grounds.  She said it should not take an act of Congress to get reasonable regulations that allow sledding on Capitol Grounds.  “Americans should be able to sled on America’s front lawn,” Norton wrote.

She noted that the current ban was not enforced for years until children and parents were turned away recently when the District had one of the few snowfalls with snow deep enough for sledding.

“Left to enforce the ban for no good reason, some U.S. Capitol Police turned away families invoking security,” Norton wrote.  “Because of high-residential density, there are few places to sled in the city, and the grounds of the U.S. Capitol – the Hill – provide a perfect sledding venue.  The sledding ban appears to be arbitrary.  There is so little snow here that there will not be frequent sledding and, therefore, no significant damage to Capitol Grounds.”

Norton has consistently advocated for expanded public access to public space.  Last year, she introduced a bill to establish a commission to investigate how to maintain democratic traditions of openness and access while responding adequately to the substantial security threats posed by terrorism.  She also introduced a bill to permit commercial filming and photography on all outdoor U.S. Capitol Grounds, beyond the single area where it is currently permitted, Union Square.

Below is a copy of Norton’s letter:

February 24, 2015

The Honorable Frank J. Larkin
U.S. Sergeant at Arms
Chair, Capitol Police Board
U.S. Capitol, Room S-151
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Larkin:

            Sledding on U.S. Capitol Grounds is one of the oldest traditions in the nation’s capital.  Although I understand that sledding has been banned for years, what I do not understand is why the U.S. Capitol Police have recently decided to enforce this Scrooge-like ban. Because the Capitol Police Board issues the regulations, I am reaching out directly to the Board to request that sledding be permitted on U.S. Capitol Grounds.

            The District of Columbia received enough snowfall to bring out sledding children and their parents last week.  Left to enforce the ban for no good reason, some U.S. Capitol Police turned away families invoking security.  Because of high-residential density, there are few places to sled in the city, and the grounds of the U.S. Capitol – the Hill – provide a perfect sledding venue.  The sledding ban appears to be arbitrary.  There is so little snow here that there will not be frequent sledding and, therefore, no significant damage to Capitol Grounds.  Moreover, the public is not barred from walking or playing games on the grounds.  I understand that there may be reasonable limits placed on sledding, but an absolute ban on sledding in the little snow the District has on the grounds of the People’s House and the Senate is unseemly and unnecessary.

            Americans should be able to sled on “America’s front lawn.”  I am asking that the Capitol Police Board remove the ban on sledding from Capitol Police Regulations.  Please respond concerning your review of this issue within 30 days.

Sincerely,

 

Eleanor Holmes Norton

 

CC:       The Honorable Paul D. Irving, Sergeant at Arms, U.S. House of Representatives

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine

Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers

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