McPherson Square. Image from Google Street View.
Sometime earlier this month the National Park Service finally removed its fences from McPherson Square. The fences had been blocking access to most of the park for about the same length of time that Occupy DC had its tents there.
Occupy DC first started using McPherson Square in October, 2011. By January, 2012 they covered the entire park, but in February the majority of campers were removed. Some tents remained until June. In total, Occupy’s tents were up in McPherson Square for about 8 months, with the heaviest concentration lasting only about 3 months.
Shortly after booting Occupy from McPherson Square, the National Park Service fenced off all the grassy portions of the square, so they could regrow grass. The grass was back by late summer 2012, but the fences remained until just recently. They were up, completely blocking anyone from using most of the park, for about 8 months. That’s as long as Occupy used the park, and more than twice as long as Occupy’s full strength.
And of course, Occupy didn’t stop anyone from using the park the way NPS did. Occupy was there, in the way, but they didn’t put up fences. Occupy never tried to physically stop other people from using McPherson Square.
This NPS “fix” was worse than the “problem”, and was the latest illustration of how NPS prioritizes grass above the people who actually use their parks.
For years NPS has managed DC’s urban parks like Yellowstone or Yosemite, treating them like nature preserves instead of social places for people. They have gotten a little better in recent years, with new leadership in charge of DC park lands, but obviously much improvement is still needed.