Pursuant to 36 CFR § 1.5(a)(1) the National Mall and Memorial Parks is continuing the temporary closure of National Park Service facilities, parking areas and roadways and the limitation of some activities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The National Park Service initially enacted these restrictions on March 20, 2020 in response to guidance and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). A Record of Determination (ROD) was extended several times through June 22, 2020. These closures will remain in effect until further notice, but the National Park Service anticipates revisiting this guidance in early July as it continues to resume additional operations on the National Mall.
The facility closures include public access to the Washington Monument, Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site, Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, and the Old Post Office Tower. Vehicular access to Hains Point will remain restricted but pedestrian access will not be affected. Public restrooms will remain closed and group picnicking will remain restricted on Hains Point. The parking lots and street parking south of Independence Avenue will remain closed, as will West Basin Drive. These temporary parking and road closures will include barricades, police tape, and vehicles in parking areas and USPP officers, vehicles and temporary barriers at road closures.
Pursuant to 36 CFR § 1.5(a)(1), the National Park Service issued a public use limitation for all permitted events and demonstrations covered by the regulations at 36 CFR 7.96 for the Interior Region 1 – National Capital Area (NCA), which includes National Mall and Memorial Parks. The ROD was extended several times through June 22, 2020. Effective immediately, the National Park Service will resume issuing permits for demonstrations, commercial filming and photography, and special events. Resuming permitted activities marks a preliminary step in the Phase 2 reopening of park operations on the National Mall.
Despite permits being suspended since March, the National Mall has been the focal point of a number of large First Amendment activities in recent weeks. Without the ability to issue permits, there is no way to ensure event organizers are addressing the health, safety and well-being of participants, nor to ensure that when there is a conflict of time and location for multiple events, all groups have the opportunity to assemble and be heard. By again issuing permits, the National Park Service will be able to work with organizers to ensure events happen in a safe manner, multiple groups and views can be safely accommodated, and Mall resources can be protected so the areas are available for future gatherings and events. Applicants will be asked to submit a COVID-19 plan with their application to identify measures they will take to limit the spread of COVID-19. The NPS will review each application to ensure it includes a COVID-19 plan.
Following DCD guidance and best practices from sport governing bodies, the National Park Service will only allow organized athletic activity with a low to medium amount of risk. Acceptable uses include skill-based drills, conditioning and team-based practices. The National Park Service will not issue permits for organized athletic leagues including volleyball, softball, football, rugby and other organized team sports, or allow formal gameplay to occur in the park, including on the National Mall.
Per 36 CFR 7.96 (g)(2)(i), demonstrations involving 25 persons or fewer do not require a permit provided that the other conditions required for the issuance of a permit are met and provided further that the group is not merely an extension of another group already availing itself of the 25-person exemption under this provision or will not unreasonably interfere with other demonstrations or special events. This determination does not affect the limited number of areas where a larger small group exception normally exists by regulation at 7.96 (g)(2)(ii).
The temporary closures are not of a nature, magnitude or duration that will result in a “significant alteration in the public use pattern.” The closures will not adversely affect the park’s natural aesthetic or cultural values, nor require significant modification to the resource management objection, nor is it of a highly controversial nature.
Accordingly, the National Park Service determines publication as rulemaking in the Federal Register is unwarranted under 36 CFR § 1.5(c). This determination is consistent with hundreds of earlier partial or temporary closures, the legal opinion of the Office of the Solicitor, and judicial adjudications that have upheld other NPS closures and public use limitations. Spiegel v. Babbitt, 855 F. Supp. 402 (D.D.C. 1994) affd in part w/o op. 56 F. 3d 1531 (D.C. Cir. 1995), reported in full, 1995 US App. Lexis 15200 (D.C. Cir. May 31, 1995); ANSWER Coalition v. Norton, No. 05-0071, (D.D.C. January 18, 2005), Mahoney v. Norton, No. 02-1715 (D.D.C. August 22, 2002), plaintiff’s emergency motion for appeal for injunction pending appealed denied Mahoney v. Norton, No. 02-5275 (D.C. Cir. September 9, 2002) (per curium); Picciotto v. United States, No. 99-2113 (D.D.C. August 6, 1999); Picciotto v. Lujan, No. 90-1261 (D.D.C. May 30, 1990) Picciotto v. Hodel, No. 87-3290 (D.D.C. December 7, 1987).
Pursuant to 36 CFR § 1.5(c), 1.7, notice of these temporary and partial closures will be made through roadway gates and the posting of signs at conspicuous locations in the affected park area. Finally, pursuant to 36 CFR § 1.5(c), this determination is available to the public upon request.
Jeffrey P. Reinbold
Superintendent, National Mall and Memorial Parks
June 23, 2020
Last updated: June 24, 2020