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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

Places in Washington DC

Norton Wants NPS to Reconsider Proposal to Close Washington Monument Athletic Fields, Spike in Fees for Other Fields on the Mall

Nov 14, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), joined by Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Don Beyer (D-VA) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD), today sent a letter to the National Park Service (NPS) urging it to reconsider its proposal to permanently close six athletic fields on the grounds of the Washington Monument and to significantly increase the fees to reserve other fields on the National Mall.

In the letter, the Members wrote, “As you know, the Founders and the original planners of the District of Columbia always intended the National Mall to be a gathering place for public activity—including First Amendment activity, cultural events, and recreational use.  We understand that NPS has recently undertaken a significant and costly renovation of the turf on the Mall, and we recognize NPS’s desire to protect it from damage.  But the Mall is not a turf sanctuary—it is a public park designed to host a variety of diverse, high-traffic events.  Moreover, our understanding is that the new turf on the Mall is a proprietary blend that is designed to withstand heavy use, which should theoretically include even the most rambunctious intramural sports.  Space for intramural sports is already at a premium in the District of Columbia and throughout the region….We urge you to reconsider these closures and reduce the reservation fees to ensure that the Mall remains open and accessible to everyone.”

The full letter is below.

Michael Reynolds
Acting Director
National Park Service
1849 C Street
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Acting Director Reynolds:

We are writing in regard to the National Park Service’s (NPS) proposal to permanently close the athletic fields on the grounds of the Washington Monument, and, in addition, to significantly increase the fees to reserve other fields on the National Mall.  Our understanding is that this proposal will permanently close six fields and increase rates at the remaining fields from $7 per season to and astronomical $70 for only a two-hour reservation.  We understand that Congress has underfunded NPS over the years, and we are committed to ensuring that NPS’s budget is increased.  Nevertheless, we are dismayed by this proposal, which limits access to the Mall and places enormous financial barriers to recreation.

As you know, the Founders and the original planners of the District of Columbia always intended the National Mall to be a gathering place for public activity—including First Amendment activity, cultural events, and recreational use.  We understand that NPS has recently undertaken a significant and costly renovation of the turf on the Mall, and we recognize NPS’s desire to protect it from damage.  But the Mall is not a turf sanctuary—it is a public park designed to host a variety of diverse, high-traffic events.  Moreover, our understanding is that the new turf on the Mall is a proprietary blend that is designed to withstand heavy use, which should theoretically include even the most rambunctious intramural sports.

Space for intramural sports is already at a premium in the District of Columbia and throughout the region.  Closing six fields at the Washington Monument will impact local parks and recreation departments that already have long waitlists for neighborhood fields.  We urge you to reconsider these closures and reduce the reservation fees to ensure that the Mall remains open and accessible to everyone. 

We ask that you respond to us within 30 days of receipt of this letter.

Sincerely,

Eleanor Holmes Norton
Elijah E. Cummings
Gerald E. Connolly
C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger
Donald S. Beyer Jr.
John P. Sarbanes
Jamie Raskin

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