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NPS finally removes fences from McPherson Square

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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.

February 28th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: government, parks

  • http://alexblock.net/ Alex B.

    There are limits to use. The park’s turf was destroyed after Occupy. And that was right after it had been re-sodded. It was a giant mud pit.

    • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

      democracy – and expression thereof – is often messy.

      • http://alexblock.net/ Alex B.

        It sure is. nnThat said, grass has limits. Occupy destroyed the grass. There was no funding to re-sod, and the only opportunity left was to let the grass grow back naturally. Which takes a lot longer than it takes to destroy it in the first place. nnNPS likely left the fences up through the winter because the grass (particularly the recently grown grass) is more vulnerable then. nnPoint being, I disagree with the premise. The ‘fix’ was not worse than the problem. The timelines involved were only longer because of the problem caused by the Occupiers. nnThis isn’t to say that NPS can’t improve their standards, or that parks in the city should be run like Yellowstone. Far from it. But that doesn’t then mean that grass can magically take the abuse inflicted on it by a months-long encampment. As I said, there are limits to use. Use has costs. This particular use cost all of us the enjoyment of this park. nnThe first amendment trumped good park management here, and that’s fine. But let’s not pretend that Occupy was some loving use of the park – it was abuse of a limited resource. The capacity of the park’s turf was stretched well beyond its ability to absorb that use.

        • A@gmail.com

          Ok. If the fix wasnt worse than the problem why doesn’t nps do this in every park that suffers from abusive over use?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005129320507 Rees Cramer

    I am so torn on this subject. As a gay man of my generation I am fully aware of the significant impact that a protest can have on injustice. But I do believe that our public green spaces should be protected from prolonged exploitation and damage. I have to agree with Alex B……it was abuse. Abuse of public or private land for your own agenda is just abuse. If you are overtaking a public park because you know that you will not be arrested there as you would be on Pennsylvania Avenue then you are missing the point of public protest. You are being a pain in the ASS. I have protested and paid a consequence.nInstead of destroying a public park stand for your principals in a public street, understanding that you freedom to do so did not happen overnight and neither will the change that is needed. I want change, I don’t like congress, but it will not change over night.



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