Volleyball Courts by Lincoln Memorial Now Cost $30 for Two Hours

Photo by PoPville flickr user John Reinhardt

Bummer for volleyball players. From NBC Washington:

“Now he and hundreds of other players will have to pay a $30, non-refundable fee online for two hours of play and reserve a court.”

From Change.org:

“The sand volleyball courts next to the Lincoln Memorial are Washington D.C.’s most valuable public volleyball resource. If you have been there, you know that individual players, teams, and friends of all ages and experience levels are welcome to play at the open-access courts FOR FREE, whenever they want. For the past 40 years, hundreds have played each week as soon as the weather is warm (and sometimes even when it’s not!).

All of this has changed. With one policy, passed virtually in secret in March, the National Park Service made all courts, all days, all year, available for leagues to rent. And, they have been rented. In a few short days, almost all weekdays after work have been gobbled up by for- and non-profit leagues, meaning our wonderful culture of open-access-to-all volleyball is gone.

This is the sale of a national park to companies, and the price is steep. (Renting a campsite for a whole night in Yosemite National Park during peak season costs $4 less than the cost of renting one sand volleyball court for two hours.) Now, each of us has to pay leagues to play on the courts at a higher price than the cost of a permit. No more after-work doubles. What’s shocking is the sand and nets on these courts were already purchased and put in place with the pick-up sand volleyball community’s own money and sweat equity, and the National Parks Service has made no concrete promises to maintain the courts in our place.

So, in what seems to be a direct contradiction to its mission to preserve outdoor recreation resources for future generations, the NPS undermined the equal opportunity of both locals and visitors of all ages, incomes and backgrounds to stay fit and healthy and enjoy our capital’s most valuable volleyball resource.

Does this seem like a good idea to you? Do you want to keep this amazing resource open to all? Sign the petition below, and help us send a message to the National Park Service:


Please share this petition with friends and family! Also, contact the National Park Service directly: the Acting Superintendent of the National Malls and Memorial Parks, Ms. Karen Cucurullo, at [email protected] or call 202-245-4670; and the Chief of Permits, Ms. Robbin Owen, at [email protected], or pick up the phone and call Mr. Leonard Lee, at 202-245-4715.”

26 Comment

  • The parks badly need $$$. This fee seems reasonable to me.

    • Agreed that the NPS as a whole is in desperate need of more money, but it is a shame that (according to OP) all the reservations have been bought up by various leagues. While I certainly appreciate the for-profit leagues (I play soccer with one) it is sad to lose the previous pick-up type of game.

      • justinbc

        If the time is being 100% accounted for, I don’t really see what the issue is.

        • The fact that there are very few open spaces anywhere in the city available for people who don’t want to or can’t be involved with a league of some sort.

          I understand the other side of the argument but it can get extremely frustrating to try do much of anything casually here.

          • justinbc

            I’ve played out there, it’s a lot of fun. But if it really has gotten as crowded as the OP wants us to believe, then some sort of organization is as beneficial to some as the come-as-you-will mentality is to others. It sucks when something that was once free no longer is, but as the OP even (perhaps unwittingly) acknowledges, it’s certainly not the only park space to charge for usage.

    • I also agree that NPS is in need of money, and that some sort of fee is reasonable. However, I think the way they went about it is pretty messed up. I mean, a nine-day posting to NPS’s website during winter w/ no additional publicity? Of course the leagues were able to snap up all the reservations. What, precisely, led them to make the change at that particular time? How’d they decide on $30? The lack of transparency is troubling.

      • Where did the leagues play before? Did they just show up at these courts hoping for open space? Fussing over $15.00 an hour fee is just nuts – especially for a team sport where it works out to like – a dollar a person! Even if you want to play two on two it’s still just the price of a beer.

  • justinbc

    “most valuable public volleyball resource”
    Thanks for the evening chuckle.

    • If they truly are that valuable, then a price should be set to prevent overuse and allow for some discipline.

      • The issue is there WAS a price. The volleyball community has been funding upkeep of the courts entirely from their own pockets for YEARS. There was no overuse because the players personally cared for the courts on their own. Now they will have to wait for NPS to care for it.

        Play has gone on peacefully for 4 decades before the leagues got involved. Everyone was able to play in a round-robin format that made it unnecessary to book a court in advance. Now the leagues make money off renting the courts and then charging players to participate.

        The other thing that is not being mentioned is that sand volleyball is meant to be played by teams of 2, but because it is not profitable for the leagues to only have 4 players on the court at a time, they are having teams of 6 play on courts intended for only 2 people. So they are wearing the courts out faster than the volunteers, and they are making it impossible for the community to ever play beach volleyball the way the game is supposed to be played: by doubles.

  • I am honestly not surprised. The NPS is one of the hardest most useless organizations to work with or to get a permit from.

    • You gotta come up with a hell of a lot to back that up. I’ve been camping, hiking, group campgrounds etc. with the NPS all over the country (seriously probably 90% of all the National Parks) for 40+ years. Always upfront and completely professional and fair. As well as doing a whole lot with always limited resources.

    • Disagree. My interactions with NPS employees have always been ernest and helpful. Considering how underfunded the NPS is this all the more impressive.

  • http://www.nps.gov/nama/learn/news/Comment-Sought-on-New-Permitting-Process-and-Fees-for-Volleyball-Courts.htm

    It seems there was always a permitting process for the volleyball courts, maybe it used to be free or maybe DPR didn’t enforce it – I don’t know since I don’t play there. And it clearly states on NPS’s page that fees will go towards costs associated with maintaining the permitting process as well as maintenance of the courts themselves. As stated above, NPS is badly in need of funds so maybe moving to a fee for use while you get courts that are maintained isn’t such a bad thing.

    • How strange that there was some arrangement between the local Department of Parks and Recreation to issue permits for federal property. I don’t know of any other arrangement like that!

    • The old permitting process was limited to half of the courts (those intended to be used by teams of 6).

      The courts have always been well maintained entirely by volunteers, so there is no benefit to the players using the court, and if anything they will be worse off because volunteers maintained the courts continuously (raking every morning/night, fixing nets daily, etc), rather than waiting for NPS to get around to it.

      They are doing this because volunteers dug out the courts with their own hands, bought the sand, and the nets, and installed them all free of charge to the parks, and now they are taking advantage to profit from the work of those volunteers.

      • justinbc

        So you built something on someone else’s land, and are now upset they’re capitalizing on that? If you want to control your own space then you have to do it in YOUR space, not someone else’s. And there’s nothing stopping you from continuing to rake the courts and otherwise take care of the area, just because someone else is now there.

  • The issue, having talked with some of the volunteers involved, is that the rulemaking happened, and was not publicly announced, yet they allowed volunteers to rebuild the courts after the fact anyway, and the courts had been privately built maintained by volunteers for many years. The problem is less with them making money off this, but that they decided to charge for facilities that they allowed private volunteers to build for them, and then decided to charge for court time after the fact. It’s not quite an eminent domain taking(admittedly they were built under a “gentlemen’s agreement”), but is really close. Whether NPS “needs the money” or not isn’t pertinent.

  • There are free sand volleyball courts here in Crystal City that I have never, ever seen in use. I know it’s not as glamorous, and the area gets desolate after 6pm, but it’s probably easier to get to via metro than the Lincoln Memorial.

  • I have no problem with NPS charging for these courts, but the way in which it was done seems outrageous. Anyone who has seen the number of people down there all summer knows there’s tons of demand. 15$/hr is almost certainly below what the “market” rate would have been. This is essentially a handout to the few leagues who knew about the process who can now turn around and make a fortune charging people to join. I think it’s a good idea to charge, but it needed to be done either more equitably or in a completely market oriented way.

    • I actually drop through there pretty often, so speak for yourself about dropping $15 to play some ball. does this really require that much more maintenance than bball, tennis, etc? i real bummer.

      • Since everything in the world is online, it will be clear when teams are profiting (excessively, above fees and reasonable costs etc.) from use of these fields. Sort it out among yourselves.

  • That is a bummer, the courts did fine maintained by the volunteers. Lioks like the volleyball leagues are trying rid the riff-raff and make a buck

  • New development: “Parkway Drive – Volleyball Courts indefinite closure: Parkway Drive – Volleyball Courts will be closed indefinitely starting April 14, 2015. Existing reservations made prior to the closure will be honored.” http://www.recreation.gov/camping/Parkway_Drive_Volleyball_Courts/r/campsiteSearch.do?site=all&type=9&minimal=no&search=site&contractCode=NRSO&parkId=75818

  • I have been playing DC Vball over 25yrs. for free. It is a great place to play and meet new people from over the world. This is a community place for everyone to get together. Where can you find a place that have men, women, boys, girl, any religion, straight or gay get together play as a team. Washington are known for diverse culture. We are here to save the DC Beach Volleyball but the leagues are here to make money. How much money have they donate to maintain the sand courts for the last few years and now they wanted to take over the place.

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