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A few months ago, right before World Cup fever, a Dupont Circle activist called me in distress: Volunteers from Fannie Mae were painting the benches, under the direction of the National Parks Service, which owns the Circle. She wasn’t upset about the painting (though she thought they could be doing a more careful job) so much as the fact that the Dupont Circle Citizens Association had been trying to volunteer to paint the benches for years prior, and hadn’t been allowed.
That isn’t the only time the National Park Service’s ownership of Dupont Circle has frustrated residents. In 2008, for example, the Department of Health said that it couldn’t do much about a rat problem in the Circle, since the Parks Service had jurisdiction. And it’s also not just Dupont Circle: The L’Enfant plan’s many diagonals have given us scraps of land all over the city that sometimes hold little memorials, but often just sit empty.
The city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, on the other hand, has been moving forward rapidly with a number of small parks around the city, often pressured by neighbors to put them to use. As frustrating as D.C. bureaucracy can seem at times, it’s much easier to lobby and work with a municipal government than a vast government agency.
The CapitalSpace plan has some ideas for re-activating these left over bits of land. But it’s been two years since that came out, with little action, and it seems like the most obvious step would be to turn over NPS-owned pieces of land that are smaller than a city block to the District, filling in the holes in our urban fabric (in fact, with the help of Eleanor Holmes Norton, we’ve already started).
I’m planning on writing more about this next week—if you’ve got particular experience with or insight on this issue, drop me a line! firstname.lastname@example.org / 202-332-2100 x224.