The parents who fought the National Park Service over the use of a tiny playground they built for their 10-year-old daughter have won.
An agreement was reached Thursday night to allow Olivia Cummings to continue to use the fenced playground next to her mother's house in the 4100 block of Gault Place NE for the next five years. Her mother, Wanda Aikens, installed the swing set about 10 years ago after receiving assurances from the Park Service that the park boundaries were outside the lot she thought she owned.
However, the Park Service surveyed its property in the neighborhood two years ago and found that it owned the lot next to Aikens's house. It ordered her off the land, even sending a bulldozer to knock down the fence and play equipment last month.
Aikens pleaded with the work crew to stop work, which they did. Then she appealed to Park Service officials, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and the media for help. She said her street was a haven for drug sellers and her daughter wasn't safe outside her yard.
Norton convened a meeting at Aikens's house Thursday night with representatives from her office, the Park Service and the House Resources Committee--which has jurisdiction over the the Park Service--and an agreement was reached.
"I am so very happy," Aikens said yesterday. "Mrs. Norton's representatives made sure the Park Service would work out a compromise."
She and Olivia's father, Randolph Cummings, had said all they wanted from the Park Service was to use the playground until Olivia was 15 and would no longer need the equipment.
Aikens said yesterday that when she told the group assembled at her house what she wanted, an agreement was quickly reached to allow the continued use of the lot under a five-year special use permit. An assistant to John Hales, the superintendent for the National Capital Parks-East, confirmed the agreement.
"We very much appreciate everyone's efforts in resolving the issue," Hales said in a statement issued through his assistant, Karen Taylor-Goodrich. "We have a core mechanism in place to address Ms. Aikens's concerns and we will send her the paperwork part of the agreement soon."