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Public Spaces

Local parks need local government

When you hear the words "national park" you might think of Yosemite or Ellis Island or any of the historic monuments like Concord's Minuteman National Historical Park at the Old North Bridge where the "Shot Heard 'Round The World" was actually heard.

But in DC, Dupont Circle is a federal park. So is the little triangle of grass at 17th and S near my apartment. So is the median grassy strip of Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast in Capitol Hill. This is because in DC, unlike every other city, the National Park Service manages most of the pocket parks and other areas, called "reservations", in the older part of the city.

But NPS is not really a median-strip mowing type of agency, and the Park Police give higher priority to protecting the National Mall rather than rounding up drug dealers in some random square, and Congress doesn't give them the funding to adequately protect local parks. Meanwhile, DC's police force only enters these federal parks if there is a crime actually in progress.

Until 1973, DC didn't even have a mayor, and the federal government was responsible for all decisions, no matter how minor. The parks situation is a relic of that, and it's silly. Local activist Cary Silverman (who is also running for Council) wrote a post calling for Home Rule over the local parks. I think that's a great idea.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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