Virginia Holtzclaw says she longs for the good old days when her quiet and orderly Southeast neighborhood was still quiet and orderly on Friday and Saturday nights.
Holtzclaw lives near Fort Dupont Park, where every weekend during the summer thousands of concert-goers come to enjoy the free summer jazz and blues concerts co-sponsored by the National Park Service and R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Those concert-goers have made her angry.
On several occasions, she said, the visitors have parked their cars in front of her driveway and blocked her neighbors' driveways. Adding outrage to her anger, she said, people on their way to and from the park have littered her neighborhood with beer cans, bottles and other trash, and become unruly outside her house on 32nd Street SE.
In short, Holtzclaw wants the concerts conceled.
"The concerts should be ended because the people who go don't use any common sense in parking," Holtzclaw said. "They're entitled to their entertainment and pleasure, but they don't hae to break the law and block my driveway."
Holtzclaw and a close neighbor, John T. Collins, 70, have joined other Ward 6 residents in urging their City Council representative, Nadine Winter, to try to slam shut the gates on the concerts. Last week, Winter responded to their calls by calling on the Park Service to "either drastically alter the manner in which the concerts in Fort Dupont Park are conducted or to cancel the concerts altogether."
Winter added, "The concert program was never designed for the 20,000 to 30,000 people who go to see the big-name entertainers they're bringing in there now. I would hope that it doesn't have to get to the point of cancellation." There's a simple solution, Winter said: "The big-name groups like Ramsey Lewis and Dizzy Gillespie should not be invited to Fort Dupont Park. They should be invited to the Monument grounds. There's much more space down there and few residents would be affected."
Represenatatives of the Park Service met with Mason and a handful of residents Monday to discuss the problems. The focus was on parking, since that has been the subject of most of the residents' complaints.
After the meeting, Al Dale, chief of public events for the National Park Service, said, "We have had an ongoing relationship with the community" concerning the concerts which began in 1974 with the support of community residents. "We've been working on the problems all the while and we thought we had things under control, so it really surprised us when Nadine Winter came out with her statement," Dale said.
"The problem with parking are being looked into closely," Dale said. The tactics being used by the Park Service to alleviate traffic congestion and illegal parking include the posting of signs directing motorists to use the "ample" parking spaces located on several parking lots in and near the park.
"We've asked the D.C. Metropolitan Police to dispatch two extra two trucks to remove illegally parked vehicles. We've also been urging the audiences to use special care when parking in the residential areas near the park or to take an even better route and catch the bus."
Winter said that she has received numerous complaints from residents concerning the distribution of Salem cigarettes by R. J. Reynolds before and after the concerts. Dale points out, however, that the distribution of cigarettes is done only under strict guidelines and several community residents earn extra money working as cigarette distributors.
"Some of the complaints are exaggerated. The concert series has been very successful and the problems should be resolved soon," said Dale. The Concert-Goers
Katherine Magraw, of Northwest, said: "The concert certainly should not be cancelled. Never. I think it's very nice to see a lot of people here. I wasn't aware of the problems. Maybe there should be more enforcement prohibiting parking on certain streets for two hours before the concert or something."
Geraldine Smith, of Burns Street SE, said: "No, I don't think they should be cancelled. It's good to have someplace to come that's free and residents should be able to put up with the problems for two days a week. I love these concerts. I think Southeast should be proud to have a park where people can come from miles around and just sit back and enjoy the blues, jazz or whatever."
Lydia Hough, from Forrestville, Md., said: "No. Whoever's in charge of running the concerts should stay on his p's and q's. We (she and her family) have been coming out since these concerts began. If there's a parking problem, they should have some kind of reserved parking spaces.They shouldn't cancel the concerts because a few people are acting trifling."
John Baylor, of Ridge Road SE, said: "Cancelled! Are you crazy?! It's the best thing going for our generation. I'm 33 and I love the blues. Where else can I go to a big blues concert? My taxes help run this park and I'd be upset if I couldn't come here and relax and enjoy what I like. This is like a big living room. I never have any problems parking here when I come, but it does get crowded sometimes." The Residents
Josephine Love Bottazzi, who has lived near the park on 32nd Street SE for 19 years, said: "I've stood out here and guarded my driveway. If I don't people will park right there and block it. People can be very inconsiderate when they're out to have a good time. I think these big name attractions that draw so many people from far and wide should be cancelled or moved somewhere else."
John T. Collins, 70, who has lived on 32nd Street for three years, said: "Yes. But, if the D.C. police would give us the protection and make sure that the traffic is not congested and people don't double park in the streets and block driveways so that we can't get our cars in and out then I would be willing for them to go on and have them. We shouldn't bear the burden of their entertainment every Friday night and Saturday night."
Richard Aylor, 58, who has lived for 16 years on Massachusettes Avenue SE, directly across the street from the park, said: "The only time it's a problem is when there's a well-known entertainer over there. That's when thousands of cars come through the neighborhood. Just to cancel it would solve the problem, but we don't have to go to that extreme. If they would let the cars park in the park, it would take care of a lot of problems. The concert-goers are not bad. They're very nice. They'll throw down a couple of beer cans, but that's about it."
Buffers Gray, 70, a resident of Southeast for 50 years who now lives on G Street SE, near the park, said with a laugh: "No. We don't have any trouble. We generally put cans up there in front of the driveway. You have a hell of a time trying to find a place to park when these big concerts are going on, but they can continue on as far as I'm concerned. There's no noise problem. I go to bed at 9 and sleep right on through the night."