News & Politics

What in the World Is Going on at the National Park Service?

The National Park Service brings to mind friendly rangers in beige fedoras. When did it get so controversial? A look at some recent local low points.

June 2017

Park Police place three black teens in handcuffs on the Mall, where they were selling bottles of water without a permit. An outcry ensues over what seems like a serious overreaction.

July 2017

Residents near Meridian Hill Park—which is cared for by the Park Service—call attention to the poor condition of its cascading fountain. In 2017, the agency had an estimated $11.6 billion in deferred-maintenance needs around the country.

September 2017

An internal survey finds that al­most 40 percent of Park Service employees who responded say they’ve experienced some form of harassment or sexual assault while on the job in the previous 12 months.

November 2017

Park Police officers fire nine shots into a Jeep driven by unarmed McLean accountant Bijan Ghaisar, killing him. The Park Police and FBI still haven’t provided any explanation or identified the officers involved.

March 2018

The Park Service informs beloved Claude Moore Colonial Farm that its 37-year public/private agreement will expire in December unless it agrees to new terms. The farm calls the proposed deal “oppressive” and starts a “save the farm” campaign.

August 2018

The Park Service proposes new rules that, among other things, would have serious consequences for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The changes would “profoundly impact both the character and continued feasibility” of the event, the Smithsonian says in a statement.

Another proposal introduces the possibility of banning protests on the sidewalk in front of the White House and charging organizers to help recover the cost of setting up barricades, fencing, and trash removal. The proposal closed for comment on October 15, but with over 90,000 responses, it’s clear the public had a lot to say.

September 2018

Several volunteers at C&O Canal National Historical Park quit due to what they describe to the Washington Post as a hostile work environment.

A version of this article appears in the November 2018 issue of Washingtonian.

Assistant Editor

Elliot joined Washingtonian in January 2018. An alum of Villanova University, he grew up in the Philadelphia area before earning a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University. His work has also appeared in the Washington Post,, and, among others. He lives in Bloomingdale.