Volleyball players unhappy about new fee for court use at West Potomac Park

A move by the National Park Service has angered some volleyball players. The courts on Rock Creek Parkway across from the Lincoln Memorial have been free to use for decades, but that is now changing. Reservations are now required along with a $30 fee.

When spring rolls around, you will find Javier Fernandez here just about every night playing volleyball.

"For me, it's the most fun I've ever had in my life," he told us.

But recent changes in how the courts are run will change how often he and his friends get to play. Up until now, it was pretty much a community free-for-all.

"You can literally walk on in your street clothes, take your shoes off, play a few games and walk on," said Kerry Lindhal.

Now, you need a reservation. In fact, Lindhal said the courts are booked for the next few months, so his 29-year tradition of easygoing volleyball games is about to change.

"We feel pretty much blindsided by the whole thing," he said. "We had no idea this was coming. It was just sprung on us out of the blue."

"Once the leagues start in like two or three weeks, we're not going to be able to come here at all," said Fernandez.

For a lot of people out on the courts, this is all about community, so they are putting together a petition to let the National Park Service know they don't want this policy change.

"To show that there is a large enough community in the Washington area that uses these courts on a regular basis to keep it open and free for everyone," said Lindhal.

A spokesperson for the National Park Service said one of the reasons the new system was put into place was to make sure everyone had equal access and they will be watching very closely to see how things go.

They are also extending the online public comment period through April 27 to give everyone a chance to voice their concerns.

The players out here say they are open to compromise and dialogue to make sure this park continues to be more than just a place for a friendly game of volleyball. They say it is a place that brings people from different walks of life together.

"There was a Ukrainian couple that showed up on one of the courts over there," Lindhal said. "They barely spoke English, but they had a love of volleyball, so they played a game or two."

The money collected from the fees will go to maintain the courts.

If you are interested in logging a public comment, you can do at parkplanning.nps.gov/volleyball.