County Expands Its Role at Glen Echo Park Through New Agreement with National Park Service

County Expands Its Role at Glen Echo Park Through New Agreement with National Park Service

Under the 10-year pact, the arts and entertainment venue will remain open if there are federal shutdowns

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Glen Echo Park
BETHANY RODGERS

Montgomery County is taking on new responsibilities for managing Glen Echo Park through a new 10-year agreement with the National Park Service.

The arrangement signed and sealed Friday is the product of years of discussion between federal and local officials and an extra nudge from Maryland congressional leaders such as U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D).

“We move forward together confident that Glen Echo Park is preserved and prepared to host more special memories,” Lisa Mendelson-Ielmini, National Capital regional director, said during a Friday news conference in front of the park’s 1920s-era carousel.

Montgomery County since 2002 has handled event programming at the arts and entertainment venue through the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture, while NPS was primarily responsible for the management and maintenance of the site. But, under the updated agreement, the county’s role will expand to include park upkeep, according to David Dise, the county’s director of general services. While Glen Echo Park will remain a park service property, the federal agency will no longer have a presence there, he said.

The change will improve the county’s ability to maintain the park grounds, officials said.

County Executive Ike Leggett signs a 10-year cooperative agreement with the National Park Service on Friday alongside National Capital Regional Director Lisa Mendelson-Ielmini.
Credit: Bethany Rodgers.

Dise said the park service is a large, bureaucratic agency that’s often spread thin, and the county over the years has noticed park maintenance issues involving everything from trash pickup to building repairs. While the park service has to go through a lengthy process to make simple fixes for a faulty power cable or problematic air handling unit, the county is “much more able to be nimble in its responses,” Dise said.

The county will also have more freedom to spruce up the park, he added.

“We need to get out here with power washers and paintbrushes and pretty this place up,” he said.

Another facet of the amended agreement is that it allows the park to remain open through federal government shutdowns should they occur. During the press conference, County Executive Ike Leggett alluded to the 2013 shutdown, when he was ready to remove the parking lot barricades around Glen Echo Park and reopen it as an act of civil disobedience.

“Now, for my luck, the park actually opened. The closure ended the following day, so I never really had to test that,” Leggett said.

But the story illustrates the significance of the historic former amusement park that attracts more than 500,000 visitors each year and the importance of the new agreement with the park service, he said.

Dise said the park service has already budgeted money this year for grounds maintenance and snow removal, but the county in future years will incur an additional cost because of the new arrangement. The park service will no longer spend money on day-to-day operations, although it will help out with some larger capital projects, he said.

He said he initially approached the federal agency about four years ago with the idea of transferring responsibility for maintenance to the county. The talks have intensified recently, as the county’s initial cooperative agreement with the park service was approaching its expiration.

Dise said the negotiations were complicated because the park service has few contracts with local governments.

Van Hollen lent his support to the county by asking Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to meet with local officials and figure out a solution. U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D) also advocated on the county’s behalf.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com

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