Dear PoPville – How Can DC Get Ownership of Federal Parks in the District?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Joe in DC

“Dear PoPville,

Federal management of many DC public spaces – principally the urban parks far from the Federal core – is a subject that gets my panties in a bunch. Meridian Hill park is just one of many examples, and also the closest to my apartment and therefore my heart.

For me, nothing illustrates the absurdity of the arrangement better than the current shutdown. Witness: City residents making full use of the park despite “closure”; drum circle shut down because…wha?; trash accumulating; etcetera.

Are there any viable initiatives/actors who are trying to get assets like these turned over to city control? I would love to lend my efforts (yes, I know it won’t be a quick fix) to something like this. But first: I’m assuming the city would prefer to have control – is this so?”

15 Comment

  • D.C. should just become a state. Until that happens, get used to Federal control of everything.

    It is time for the State of New Columbia.

  • DC periodically makes request for NPS or other Feds to transfer parcels to District ownership. Including sites such as the now Yards Park (formerly SE Fed Center). Its a long process but trust me, DC is trying to get more actual ownership not just “management” (ie, Feds own, but DC has to maintain it).

  • NPS’s shortcomings aside, why on earth would you expect DC to do a better job?

    • Because DC has been pouring money into new parks and physical infrastructure? Because DC has a budget surplus? Because no matter how well you think they execute their mandate at least DC’s mandate is focused on the citizens of the city? Because NPS management is anachronistic and miserable? Because…wait, did you even think before you posted the question?

      • A budget surplus and a mandate to focus on citizens doesn’t mean much if you lack competent personnel, management, and accountability. Or did you think of any of that before you posted your snarky reply?

        • Mandate is a decent place to start when the counterfactual (in this case status quo) is similarly incompetent, and worse, uninterested. There is precedent for land transfers to the District, and there are dozens, of units, small and large, which make no sense to have under Federal management.

    • Reason #1: NPS’s contracting fiasco.

  • It requires an act of congress. Good luck.

  • DC is not ready to manage natural parks. They barely know how to manage community gardens. It would have to be very very very very gradual, because I don’t have faith in their Parks department… yet.

    • I have to agree. NPS does a mediocre-to-poor job of maintaining their parkland in DC, and I have very little faith that the District could do any better.

    • What about drawing a distinction between the “natural parks” like RCP and Dumbarton Oaks Park, and the “urban parks” like Dupont Circle and all of the little traffic wedges with statues? I agree that the city doesn’t need to learn how to manage the larger, “wilder” tracts, but could probably manage just fine with the little pocket parks around.
      Though I am not sure what the city gains by controlling most of those parks, other than the burden of emptying the trash cans. For some of the larger ones, like Dupont Circle or Meridian Hill, maybe it becomes easier for people to use the spaces for public events? But what would the city gain by controlling all of the weird little wedges?

  • The federal government almost never gives up its land.

  • No matter who controls the park (NPS or DC), nobody is going to stop a group of residents from coming in and cleaning up the park, picking up trash and pulling weeds. Many neighbors in my hood regularly clean up and even mulch our little city park (10th Street Park). It is one of the nicest looking parks in the city, in my opinion.

    To the original question though…it’s a lot easier to contact somebody in the city, or on the council and get some attention to a city park. Getting through to anybody in NPS and actually getting something accomplished in less then 5 years is almost impossible.

    Try organizing a group to go in and do some clean up and mulching in Meridian Hill. I’ll bet you get a good turnout and it’s a great way to show your care for such a beautiful park. Sometimes, we have to do this ourselves rather than wait for the government.

  • Don’t assume the District wants all the parks in the city under its ownership/control. That’s a lot of territory and a lot of expense.

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