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Fort Reno Concerts Are in Doubt, Again

The DC punk band Priests at Fort Reno Park in 2014. Photograph by Flickr user Stephen Melkisethian.

UPDATE, 4:05 PM: In an email, National Park Service spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles says representatives from that agency and the US Park Police met with Fort Reno concert organizer Amanda MacKaye to review 2014’s shows and start the plan for this year’s. The participants discussed public-saftey guidelines and fees for staging the concerts.

“One of the primary goals in permitting any event is to ensure public safety,” Anzelmo-Sarles writes. “These fees are standard practice for many permitted special events.”

The annual summer concert series at Tenleytown’s Fort Reno Park is in danger of not happening, its organizer, Amanda MacKaye, writes on her website. MacKaye’s statement appears to be the first act in a repeat of last year’s drama in which the shows were canceled over her reluctance to pay for a National Park Service-required police presence, then confirmed after she agreed to raise the necessary funds.

In her statement today, MacKaye is not nearly as apocalyptic as last year, but she is hinting rather overtly that this year’s 21-band lineup might not take the stage. “Last year’s change in procedure from the National Park Service and US Park Police EMPTIED (and then some) our piggy bank,” she writes. “NPS and USPP have informed me that once again we will have to pay for police presence.”

MacKaye continues, writing that she had hoped that “our peaceful series in 2014” would convinced authorities’ to drop the requirment that Park Police officers patrol the grounds during the concerts, which typically bring out a few hundred audience members.

It cost $2,640 to cover last summer’s police presence, according to Washington City Paper. MacKaye was put on the hook for the cost after federal budget cuts forced NPS to start funding police overtime through fees levied on event organizers. The concerts themselves are operated on a shoestring budget of about $2,500 per year.

MacKaye did not respond to multiple requests for comment this renewed dispute with the Park Service and Park Police. The Fort Reno concert series website contains a frantic plea for donations to fund this year’s shows. She offers two methods of contributions: through the Washington Peace Center, which is tax-deductable, or directly to her address, which is not.

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