Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett today called on the National Park Service (NPS) to reopen Glen Echo Park, which remains closed despite the fact that its arts and cultural programs receive no federal funds. At the event, Leggett reiterated the County’s offer to take responsibility for grounds maintenance and security, the functions that NPS currently performs. If NPS does not take the County up on its offer by Thursday evening, Leggett said the County itself would reopen the facility on Friday. The park land is owned by NPS, but Glen Echo Park is operated by Montgomery County and the non-profit Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture (the Partnership). Glen Echo Park is best known for the iconic Dentzel Carousel and the historic Spanish Ballroom and has been home to many arts groups for decades.
“In 2002, Montgomery County stepped in to save an aging and rundown facility and signed an agreement with the National Park Service to renovate and revitalize Glen Echo Park,” said Leggett. “Through a cooperative effort with the Partnership, we have transformed the Park from a state of neglect to a premier center for the arts in the Washington region. Over the past three weeks, Montgomery County has stepped up once again to offer assistance to NPS to fully operate Glen Echo Park. Unfortunately, our requests have gone unanswered.
“All the National Park Service does at Glen Echo is grounds maintenance, trash collection and provide security,” said Leggett. “If the National Park Service will open Glen Echo, Montgomery County will provide these services until the government shutdown ends. If NPS does not reopen Glen Echo by Thursday, the County will.”
The Partnership and its nonprofit partners -- which include Adventure Theater, the Puppet Co. and many dance organizations and visual artists -- have been barred from entering the park and cannot retrieve their property or collect their mail. According to the Partnership, the negative impact to their organizations is amounting to losses of approximately $25,000 a day.
“This issue could be solved today if House Republicans would allow a vote to pass the Senate bill and reopen the Federal government,” said Congressman Chris Van Hollen. “While the shutdown continues, I have urged the National Park Service to ensure that its policy towards parks with private partnerships, like Glen Echo, is applied consistently so the park can continue operations with its own, non-Federal funds.”
At today’s event, County Councilmember Roger Berliner, who represents Glen Echo, stated he would join Leggett, if necessary, on Friday to reopen the park.
“As I said in my letter to the Secretary of the Interior yesterday, a shutdown at the federal level should not result in the shutdown of a community asset that receives no federal funding,” said Berliner.
According to the Partnership, other sites that have a connection to the National Park Service but whose programs are not funded by NPS have been reopened. These include Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean, Virginia and Langley Fork Park, which is run by Fairfax County but is on National Park Service land. The County and the Partnership are asking that Glen Echo Park be treated the same as these other facilities.
“This shutdown seems unnecessary and is potentially devastating for our arts groups,” said the Partnership’s Executive Director Katey Boerner. “Our programs are paid for with private dollars and support from Montgomery County, so we do not see a need to close the Park and deny the public these valuable programs. We wish there had been more communication and an attempt made to keep the programs going instead of an arbitrary shutdown. To date, the Park has lost $300,000 in revenue and that number is growing the longer the shutdown continues.”
Each year, more than 400,000 people visit Glen Echo Park. It is home to 13 resident artists and arts organizations, a thriving social dance program that serves thousands of dancers, a restored 1921 Dentzel Carousel, two children’s theaters, an environmental education program, numerous art studios and galleries, and hundreds of classes in visual and performing arts, including ceramics, painting, photography, glass, music and dance. The Partnership manages programs, markets the Park, raises funds and operates and maintains all facilities.
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