National Park Service Mistakenly Closes Lincoln Park, Setting Off Comedy of Errors
by Larry Janezich
Mid-day on Friday, a photo circulated (by the editor of CHC and others) on Capitol Hill listservs showed a sign of an official sign posted at Lincoln Park alerting residents that: “Lincoln Park is Closed. As a public precaution, Lincoln Park is temporarily closed for the safety of staff and visitors. Updates will be posted to the Park website….
That set off a comedy of errors which took much of the day to get resolved, and then, without apology from the Park Service, or acknowledgement that it had been their fault.
A visit to the Park Service website told a different story than the one on the sign: “Playgrounds are Temporarily Closed as of March 26th, 2020. Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health officials in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Lincoln Park, Stanton Park, Marion Park, and Maryland Ave Playgrounds are temporarily closed.”
However, actions by police seemed to be more in keeping with a park closure. According to one poster on the Lincoln Park listserv, “Those signs were placed in the general area, by the Lincoln statue, not the playground, after the police made people disperse prior to dusk, about 5:30 p.m.”
At 2:53pm, First District Commander Morgan Kane, who had been asked to help clarify the status of the park, notified the Lincoln Park listserv that “The parks are closed. I just verified with US Park Police that the parks are closed and no one should be inside using them. Officers from U.S. Park Police and MPD will monitor and advise folks to leave the park and practice all the recommendations from the CDC and your local district government leaders in accordance with the Mayor’s Order 2020-053 and National Park Service Record of Determination. We all are asked to play our important role in flattening the curve of COVID-19 infections.”
At 4:14pm, Kane came back to the Lincoln Park listserv with an update: “US Park Police just called to notify me that they accidentally closed the entire park versus just closing the playground. US Park Police will still come through the parks to ensure compliance with their NPS Record of Determination as well social distancing asks. Please continue to work with us to flatten the curve!!! MPD will continue to remind you as well.”
ANC6B Commissioner Steve Holtzman reached out to the National Park Service for an explanation. Robert R. Arzola, Acting Program Management Specialist, Office of the Superintendent replied:
“I am writing regarding questions related to National Park Service signage at Lincoln Park. On Saturday, March 21 the Lincoln Park playground was closed as a public health precaution. Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, the playgrounds at Lincoln Park, Stanton Park, Marion Park, and Maryland Ave are temporarily closed. Lincoln Park and the other parks are open.”
By late afternoon on Friday, Lincoln Park was filled with residents enjoying the spring weather.