THE SLOW CREEP of overwrought security has left its mark on Washington. Look at the landscape blighted with barriers and bollards, the historic views lost, the streets mindlessly closed off. Now see the latest victim of officialdom’s obsession with security — model boats — and decide if you want to laugh or cry.
“A thing of the past” is the description used by The Post’s John Kelly in describing the banishment of miniature boating craft from traditional locations on the Mall. Greg Viggiano, an Alexandria model-boating enthusiast featured by Mr. Kelly, told us how he used to, without problem or incident, operate remote-controlled boats in the reflecting pool near the Capitol. He said that his club also would hold regattas there, as recently as 18 months ago. That all changed, though, when jurisdiction for the area was transferred last year from the National Park Service to the Architect of the Capitol. Mr. Viggiano said that he was told such activity was banned under traffic and motor vehicles regulations for the Capitol grounds. “While Section 104 may not explicitly state model boats, it does provide a solid framework for prohibition against remote controlled model boating,” Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers wrote Mr. Viggiano in informing him the Capitol Police Board decided not to grant an exception.
When House and Senate security officials surreptitiously — without hearings or debate — slipped transfer of the 11-acre plot known as Union Square into an omnibus appropriations bill last year, we worried “that the public will be further restricted in what can be seen and done.” The prediction was based on the all-too-rigid approach that has come to mark decisions about security and which has resulted in many parts of this capital city being walled off from public use and enjoyment.
Other cities — New York and London were the ones cited by Mr. Kelly — see model boating as a lovely hobby that brings just as much enjoyment to onlookers as practitioners. That tiny, model sailboats and submarines are perceived to be a threat is an embarrassment.