Record of Determination for the Temporary Public Road and Pedestrian Access Closure of the Tidal Basin to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 During the Cherry Blossom Festival

Pursuant to 36 CFR § 1.5(a)(1) the National Mall and Memorial Parks is temporarily closing National Park Service roadways that provide access to the Tidal Basin to support the District of Columbia’s effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The temporary closure locations appear on the attached map and will be publicly announced. This temporary closure is based upon a determination, in consultation with the local authorities, that such action is necessary for the maintenance of public health and safety. This temporary closure will begin immediately and will remain in effect from 7:00am – 8:00pm daily through Sunday, March 30, 2020. The temporary closures will be staffed by USPP and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and include both departments’ vehicles. All temporary road closures on NPS land will be staffed by USPP officers.

Pedestrian access to the Tidal Basin will also be temporarily restricted generally from Independence Avenue south. The north side of Independence Avenue will be marked by barricades, police tape and MPD officers and vehicles. There will be no vehicular or pedestrian access south of Independence Avenue except for NPS and USPP personnel and related contractors, deliveries, and other businesses within the restricted area for the duration of the temporary closure. During the temporary closure periods, visitors will not have access to Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial as well as recreation fields and amenities in West Potomac Park and East Potomac Park. (See map)

The temporary road closures and pedestrian access restrictions to the Tidal Basin are necessary to support the District of Columbia’s effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during the bloom season for the cherry trees in the area. While almost all events related to the National Cherry Blossom Festival have been cancelled, visitors are still coming in large numbers to see the blossoming trees, particularly the 1,400 trees that line the Tidal Basin. The walkway around the Tidal Basin is narrow and visitor movement is constrained by the cherry trees and fencing that protects the fragile tree roots from visitor trampling and soil compaction. These conditions make it difficult to maintain the Center for Disease Control’s social distancing recommendation of 6 feet. Currently, National Park Service efforts to utilize social media, traditional media interviews, messaging boards and restricting vehicle access alone have proven insufficient to reduce the number of visitors to the Tidal Basin. We will reopen areas as we determine, in consultation with public authorities, that we have mechanisms in place to maintain social distance

The temporary closure is not of a nature, magnitude or duration that will result in a “significant alteration in the public use pattern.” The closure 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 this temporary and partial closure 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 /s/
Superintendent, National Mall and Memorial Parks

Tidal Basin Closure Map due to Covid-19

Last updated: March 25, 2020

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