The National Park Service said Thursday that it wants to permanently close the grounds of the Washington Monument to recreational activities and increase reservation fees for use of its 28 athletic fields on the Mall and in Rock Creek Park.
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, spokesman Mike Litterst said in an email.
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," Litterst said in the email.
The new rate would be $70 per two-hour block — $30 an hour plus a $10 administrative fee, he said.
In addition, permitting will shift from the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation to the National Park Service, the owner of the fields, Litterst said.
The proposal was first reported by E&E News, a news organization focused on energy and the environment.
A public comment period will be held, possibly starting early next week, Litterst said. The proposals will not affect public gatherings such as the Blossom Kite Festival and Fourth of July celebrations, he said.
"It's sad," said Ben Cushing, an outfielder with the Sierra Club's "Claw" team, which plays slow-pitch softball on the monument grounds in the summer. "As a D.C. resident it's pretty disappointing. . . . Access to the Mall is one of the things that makes living in D.C. great."
"Especially in the summer, it's a big part of life in D.C.," he said. "Almost every week, sometimes multiple times a week," he said, co-workers and friends gather on the fields after work to play ball and socialize.
"I think the Park Service will definitely get an earful," he said.