Fort Reno concert series canceled for summer

June 30 update: Fort Reno will take place in 2014 after all

Original post: 

After weeks of anticipation -- and social media rumors -- the truth finally comes out: The District's annual concert series at Fort Reno Park will go dark for the first summer in decades.

“Local punk group Branch Manager performing at Fort Reno Park on August 15, 1996.”. (Mark Finkenstaedt/For The Washington Post)
Local punk group Branch Manager performing at Fort Reno Park on August 15, 1996. (Mark Finkenstaedt/For The Washington Post)

According to a statement from concert series organizer Amanda MacKaye, the National Park Service and the U.S. Park Police asked Fort Reno organizers to pay for an officer to be posted on site at each concert. That cost would "literally double the VERY small budget of the concert series..." MacKaye wrote. "That all said, with the heaviest of hearts the decision is that the concert series will be dark for 2014 in an effort to resolve this for the future."

The long-running concert series has served as an annual showcase for the area's best underground rock artists, including Fugazi, Dismemberment Plan, Ted Leo and countless others.

By mid-afternoon Thursday, the hashtag #SaveFortReno had picked up steam on Twitter, and a Change.org petition had been created to request that the National Park Service and U.S. Park Police to allow the series to continue.

Read MacKaye's full statement below:

Around the time that we should have received our finalized permit for this summer, the concert series was informed by National Park Service that U.S. Park Police was imposing a requirement that we pay for an officer to be posted on site at each concert. Inquiry with our ranger led to a call to U.S. Park Police.

U.S. Park Police cited differing reasons as to why this had come up after all these years. The reasons felt vague and when asked for specifics, none were given.

I requested a sit down meeting with NPS and USPP with the hope that our long standing (very good) relationship with NPS coupled with people seeing that we are just folks having a small community related event would bring about a better understanding and resolution.

Two messages to schedule went unanswered and when I did reach someone, a meeting was scheduled for the next morning (yesterday). The meeting happened but none of the invitees attended except myself and one extremely kind NPS employee who works in the office where meetings are held but despite being familiar with the park and the concert series as being an annual event, knew nothing about why the permit was being stalled.

So as it stands today, not only does the concert series not have the funds to cover this cost at the last minute but we don’t feel we should have to do this without just cause. Our feeling is that if something had changed within the operations at NPS or USPP regarding public events since last summer, there was ample time to inform us. NPS has all of my contact information. And this is not a little cost as USPP seems to think. It will literally double the VERY small budget of the concert series. It will affect how many shows can happen because the money must be paid up front. I didn’t even bother to get into what happens if we are dark due to rain…

That all said, with the heaviest of hearts the decision is that the concert series will be dark for 2014 in an effort to resolve this for the future. I hope it goes without saying that this is not the outcome we expected and certainly don’t want.

With love, gratitude and sincerity,
Amanda

Chris Richards has been the Post's pop music critic since 2009. He's recently written about summer songs, festival fatigue, metal drumming and D.C. rap star Shy Glizzy.

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