Proposal could add permits or even ban sports teams on National Mall fields

A new proposal could affect how DC locals use the fields on the National Mall.

Now, locals are getting their first chance to tell the National Park Service their thoughts on a proposal to possibly ban organized sports along the National Mall and raise permit fees on the use of nearby fields.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton called a meeting after an outcry and hundreds signed a petition protesting the news.

On many weeknights among tourists and people just relaxing on the grass of the National Mall, you will also find local organized sports teams playing football or soccer and they are worried that some new changes coming will also mean an end to a long-standing DC tradition.

Starting in 2019, the National Park Service will take over the reservation process for using 24 softball and multi-use fields near the National Mall, taking them over from the DC Department of Parks and Rec.

That change creates several unknowns that has local sports groups like DC Fray worried.

More than 100,000 people participate in one of these leagues like DC, that play on the National Mall without a permit many nights a week. They say it's a first come first serve basis and have been doing it for years, but they worry when National Park Service takes over there will be an all-out ban of these organized activities on the mall as they will start to enforce that.

"The mall has accommodated this use for decades and decades and its part of the original planning from the L'Enfant plan to have "active recreation." Those were the actual words used. So there's a place for picnicking, frisbee and tourism but at seven o'clock at night on a Tuesday, its really that awesome opportunity for locals to get out there play in the shadow or our monuments, in the shadow of the nation's capital. There's really nothing quite like it. It's become a right of passage and we just think its super important," says Robert Kinsler with DC Fray.

"Organized recreation, league play. One of these, DC Fray or other big leagues, all of these uses require a permit and there are only certain fields where they can play. Informal recreation, that will always have a place on the mall, its America's front yard. Picnic, grab a few friends and play frisbee, that activity always welcome and no fee for that," says Mike Litterst with the National Park Service.

The National Park Service is considering increasing fees to get a permit to use one of those 24 fields. Right now, under the DC Park Service its just a $7 dollar registration fee.
But that could increase up to $70 for a two-hour block or $30 for one hour plus a $10 admin fee.

National Park Service says this is just a proposal but it compares to how other cities handle public sports fields and it would allow them to take better care of the fields.

The meeting is being held at the Rayburn House Office Building on Monday night.