March 15, 2013

We in the National Park Service take very seriously our responsibility to care for the historic cherry trees along the Tidal Basin, the Mall and memorial parks, so it was a great disappointment to see a photo on the front page of the March 11 Metro section showing a couple in a hammock suspended from two of those trees [“Warm and cozy”].

Hanging a hammock from a tree in a National Park is prohibited and, more important, damages a natural resource that belongs to the American people. While the couple may have thought what they were doing was harmless, it is not. Every year cherry trees are damaged by people climbing and breaking branches, which exposes the trees to diseases and pests and can shorten their lives.

The timing of the photo is especially unfortunate. In less than two weeks, millions of people will be visiting Washington for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, and it would be disastrous if even a small fraction of them saw the photo and assumed the National Park Service allowed such activity. We work hard to take care of the trees, which are a national treasure, but we need the help and cooperation of the public to keep them healthy.

Robert A. Vogel, Washington

The writer is superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

The photo of two people in a hammock hung between two cherry trees along the Tidal Basin is ridiculous. How are we going to preserve our parks if we reward people who break the rules by allowing their children to climb in the trees or, in this case, string a hammock between trees? The offenders should have been ticketed by Park Police. Publishing photos like this only encourages others to break the rules. Wake up, Post, and stop contributing to the problem!

Marjorie Weyers, Alexandria

Why would The Post encourage people to abuse the cherry trees by featuring a large photo? It would have been better to show Park Service officers telling the people to remove their hammock. Of course, that assumes the officers who usually patrol against such things were still on duty and had not been furloughed.

Bonnie Becker, Springfield