Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and six other local members of the House of Representatives asked the National Park Service Tuesday to reconsider its proposal to ban recreational activities on the grounds of the Washington Monument.
The legislators also asked the Park Service to reconsider its proposed increase in fees for use of its ball fields elsewhere on the Mall and in Rock Creek Park.
The appeal came in a letter to Michael Reynolds, the Park Service’s acting director.
The Park Service said recently that it wants to permanently close the grounds of the Washington Monument to recreational activities and increase fees for use of its 28 athletic fields.
The battered monument grounds were closed earlier this year for turf restoration, and the Park Service wants that closure to continue after the project is finished next year.
There are about a half-dozen fields on Monument grounds.
The Park Service wants to raise reservation fees “from the previous flat fees based solely on administrative costs of processing (in some cases as little as $7 per season) to an hourly rate that will provide revenue for upkeep and management of the fields,” spokesman Mike Litterst said.
The new rate would be $70 per two-hour block — $30 an hour plus a $10 administrative fee, he said.
But the legislators said the new fees are “astronomical.”
“We understand that Congress has underfunded NPS over the years, and we are committed to ensuring that NPS’s budget is increased,” they wrote.
“Nevertheless, we are dismayed by this proposal, which limits access to the Mall and places enormous financial barriers to recreation,” they wrote.
“The Founders and the original planners of the District of Columbia always intended the National Mall to be a gathering place for public activity — including . . . recreational use,” they wrote.
“We understand that NPS has recently undertaken a significant and costly renovation of the turf on the Mall, and we recognize NPS’s desire to protect it from damage,” they wrote. “But the Mall is not a turf sanctuary — it is a public park.”
In addition to Norton, the letter was signed by Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.)