Montgomery County will reopen Glen Echo Park itself on Friday if the county can’t reach a deal with the National Park Service to operate the facility that is currently closed because of the federal government shutdown.
The county may perpetrate an “act of civil disobedience” and begin operating the park on Friday if an agreement can’t be reached with the park service by Thursday night, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) told The Gazette on Tuesday.
Although it sits on National Park Service land, Glen Echo is run by the county and the nonprofit Glen Echo Partnership for Arts and Culture.
“They operate it,” Leggett said. “The park service does not operate this.”
On Monday, Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Gaithersburg sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell asking that the park be reopened.
“A shutdown at the federal level should not result in the shutdown of a community asset that, in fact, receives no federal funding,” Berliner wrote.
The Park Service picks up trash at the facility and provides some security in the park’s parking lots, Leggett said.
The county would assume those responsibilities until the shutdown is over.
The county has tried to resolve the issue with the Department of the Interior, which oversees the Park Service, but hasn’t been able to get their attention, Leggett said.
The press office for the Department of the Interior is closed because of the shutdown, and an email to an address set up to deal with inquiries during the shutdown was not returned Tuesday.
The park’s closure has left businesses at the site unable to get into their offices or even to check their mail, Leggett said.
The arts partnership fully supports the move to open the park, which never should have been closed because of the shutdown to begin with, executive director Katey Boerner said.
“I’m not looking for confrontation, but we need to be open,” she said.
In his letter to Jewell, Berliner said park officials estimated they lost $67,000 in one weekend of being closed.
The park’s theater and puppetry facilities normally draw large groups of schoolchildren and others, and the Friday night dance usually brings in about 300 people, Boerner said.
The park also offers pottery, photography, glassblowing and other classes that can’t be held while it’s closed.
“We can’t survive another weekend of being closed,” Boerner said.
Glen Echo Park, with its historic carousel and ballroom, is also a sought-after location for wedding celebrations and several have had to be canceled since the shutdown began Oct. 1.
Bride-to-be Tina Poole was supposed to have had her wedding ceremony and reception at Glen Echo Park on Oct. 12. The Alexandria, Va., resident called the park a week after she got engaged in July 2012, and booked the last available Saturday slot in the fall of 2013.
After more than a year of planning, Poole learned on Oct. 3 that the venue was unable to host her event.
“I was pretty devastated because it [the park] has a lot of sentimental value to me and my fiance,” she said. Her new husband, Jackson Takach, proposed at the site’s bumper car pavilion.
Glen Echo Park employees quickly jumped in to help make new arrangements, Poole said. They contacted other venues on behalf of the couple, and arranged for the money that already was paid to the park to be transferred to the new locations.
After kicking the planning into high gear, Poole and Takach found new spaces and kept the same wedding date. They booked F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre for the ceremony and used its social hall for the reception, both of which are in Rockville. Kim Haug, the theater supervisor at the venue, confirmed Tuesday that the wedding did take place and ran smoothly.
Keeping the same wedding date was important to the couple because they wanted to ensure that all 80 of their guests, many of whom were coming from out of town, could still attend, Poole said.
“Luckily we managed to do online invitations and we were able to tell everyone really quickly,” Poole said.