Today, the Park Service owns 6,776 acres of the District. The city’s Department of Parks and Recreation has another 841 acres, making D.C. the nation’s second greenest high-density city, just barely behind New York. The Park Service’s land is broken up into 637 separate “reservations,” 425 of which are smaller than one acre. While some have monuments and playground equipment, most are blank and empty, visited weekly by maintenance crews—and otherwise ignored by the feds, who don’t even have the money needed to keep the Mall in decent shape.It's time that all of the National Park Service transfer the smaller parks - from the circles and squares down to the "pocket park" reservations - to the District. Three reasons why...
- Home Rule. If we are going to ever have full home rule, as a state or otherwise, then the District has to take responsibility for its green spaces. Now, if you've got a problem with a federal park, you can call Eleanor Holmes Norton's office, but the National Park Service is overseen by a Congressman from Arizona and a Senator from Colorado (at least the current Director of NPS is a Virginia native). Yes, there's a cost to maintaining the land, but that's what states do. Large green areas, such as the mall, Roosevelt Island, Rock Creek Park would remain federal parks.
- Community Use and Planning. It's very difficult to hold any type of event on federally controlled land. While one can easily have a festival, outdoor movie night, or block party type event on DC Department of Parks and Recreation land, federal parks do not serve the community. In addition, it's a challenge to make repairs or improvements. Whether it is installing additional lighting at a pocket park, painting benches or planting flowers in Dupont Circle, or renovating the triangle at 6th and I with a Chinese-themed design... don't hold your breath. Artists who offer to install public art, such as a sculpture, in a park, are limited to DPR properties. The federal ones remain barren and largely unused.
- Public Safety. U.S. Park Police have primary jurisdiction and responsibility for federal park lands. They have a hard enough time covering terrorist threats at the National Mall. How can they be stretched to effectively deal with drunkards in Logan Circle or prostitution in some tiny triangle park in Mount Vernon Square? MPD has shared jurisdiction, but (and I've heard different things from officers over they years), they generally will not patrol federal parks unless called in on an emergency or they happen to observe a crime.