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The city’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) is looking into whether lifeguards manning Dupont Circle’s Francis Pool improperly collected parking fees from patrons. Over the last couple of weekends of DPR’s pool season, staffers at the facility, at 25th and N Streets NW, opened a dusty stretch of land on the western edge of the complex. When incoming pool users parked there, the lifeguards extracted a $5 parking fee.
I was one of their victims. Two weekends ago, I spotted an opening in this parking area. There was no sign indicating a fee, but a lifeguard hit me up for payment just after I’d parked. He dropped my fiver into a big wad of bills.
I later asked for a receipt. No go. I asked to see a sign. The lifeguard said they’d had a sign up the weekend before, but that someone must have taken it down. I then questioned him about the system: If there are no receipts, how does DPR know how much cash was collected? He replied that DPR has precise notions of how many people patronize the pool on a given day, and how much cash should be handed over by the lifeguards. (The pool charges $7 for non-D.C. residents).
The fishiness in this setup was also apparent to Brian O’Connor. He and his family showed up last weekend, parked in the “pay” space, and faced an immediate request for payment. He blew it off and proceeded to enjoy the pool. Then a lifeguard threatened to call the police on him. At first, he said he’d welcome the intervention of the cops, but ultimately just moved his vehicle.
O’Connor was suspicious of the scheme in part because a friend had previously handed over $5 for parking, only to watch the attendant/lifeguard slide the bill right into her wallet. O’Connor said he’d likely report the activity to DPR, “though we doubt it will do any good at this point.” (The pool closed for the year on Sept. 1).
Yesterday, I spoke with DPR spokesperson John Stokes about these parking “policies” at the Francis pool. He responded unequivocally: “We do not charge for parking at our facilities,” he said, positing that perhaps the folks who were collecting the fees weren’t DPR employees.
When I told him that they were dressed in white tanktops, red shorts, carried lifeguard equipment, and supervised the pool, he said, “We will be seriously looking into the situation.”
“That was a scam,” said Stokes.
“The only thing I can say is that calls are being made right now,” continued Stokes. “We really appreciate it when constituents note any type of illegal behavior at any DPR facility or location.”