In light of proposed budget cuts to the U.S. National Park Service, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) formally requested that the federal government transfer oversight and management of five land sites operated by the NPS to the District’s control in a letter last week.
In President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for 2018, he proposed a 12 percent, or $1.5 billion, cut to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the NPS.
The locations Bowser has requested control over include the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium located two miles east of the U.S. Capitol, downtown’s Franklin Square and three public golf courses.
D.C. City Administrator Rashad Young said the properties should be transferred to D.C. to avoid the nearly 12 percent cut to the NPS budget projected under Trump’s proposed 2018 budget.
Young said the District’s government is better equipped to see that these properties are maintained for District residents.
“As City Administrator I believe that the initial budget proposal presented by the Trump Administration is inconsistent with our D.C. values,” Young wrote in an email to The Hoya.
In a March 29 letter to Trump, Bowser said her goal is to renovate the properties for Washington residents and invest in infrastructure projects to spur job growth in the city.
“You have often said that infrastructure investments are key priorities of your Administration. And, as Mayor of Washington D.C., I could not agree more. The rehabilitation of our infrastructure not only strengthens and renews that infrastructure, but it creates jobs and lifts our economy as well,” Bowser wrote. “We stand ready to partner with you to invest in infrastructure and to create more economic opportunities.”
Bowser also argued that the locations have been neglected by the NPS and thus not expanded or invested in.
Bowser doubled down on the initiative during a press conference yesterday, arguing that ensuring infrastructure projects remain innovative is a priority for her administration.
“They have all suffered from the inattention of the National Parks Service, and we are asking the president to work with us on getting control over those properties so that we can make the necessary investments,” Bowser said at the press conference.
Jeremy Barnum, a public affairs officer for the NPS, maintained that the agency has a productive relationship with the District government.
“The National Park Service has a close working relationship with the District of Columbia government and its many agencies,” Barnum wrote in an email to The Hoya.
In her letter, Bowser specified the renovations her administration would pursue if granted control over the properties.
For the RFK stadium, Bowser said she would revitalize the property to sustain a broader range of uses.
Currently, the stadium is restricted by its lease for sports and entertainment uses, but Bowser said the D.C. government would be willing to fund housing, retail and other initiatives on the 100 acres included in the stadium property.
“The site is surrounded by strong, diverse neighborhoods that would greatly benefit from activating the sea of parking lots that divide their access to the Anacostia River,” Bowser wrote. “We believe the site can be transformed to create and preserve green space, add much needed housing and retail, include a sports and/or entertainment purpose and above all generate jobs for our residents and the region.”
Barnum said the NPS does not have the authority to extend the stadium’s lease or to authorize uses for the space beyond those permitted by Congress.
Bowser’s letter also addressed her plans for the administration of Franklin Square, located between I and K streets NW.
According to Bowser’s letter, the NPS failed to complete the functional improvements necessary to adequately serve the high volume of visitors the park sees each year.
In 2012, the NPS and the Washington government worked together to repair the park and bring local vendors to the area, but the project has not moved forward in recent months due to delays that Bowser attributed to the NPS.
Barnum said the NPS is proud of the joint efforts between the agency and the District government.
“This has been a groundbreaking effort that will not just improve a single park, but will reinvent how the city and the NPS can work together to manage the treasures that are the national parks of the District of Columbia,” Barnum wrote.
Finally, Bowser detailed her administration’s plans for the Langston Initiative, which manages renovations to the city’s three public golf courses: the Rock Creek Park Golf Course, the East Potomac Park Golf Course and the Langston Golf Course.
According to Bowser’s letter, her administration would not only make necessary repairs to the courses but also utilize public-private partnerships with D.C. businesses to create a ‘world class urban golf system,’ which would include family entertainment facilities and retail opportunities around the courses.
Barnum said the NPS is supportive of the Langston Initiative, regardless of who leads the project.
“We are hopeful that this initiative will result in revitalized courses that will remain affordable for the golfing community that has enjoyed these courses for generations, as well as increased recreational opportunities for D.C. residents and visitors,” Barnum wrote.
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