GLEN ECHO — Montgomery County will take over the management, maintenance and operation of Glen Echo Park as part of its agreement with the National Park Service, General Services Director David Dise announced on Friday.
In an event held Friday afternoon by the park’s historic carousel, County Executive Ike Leggett and National Parks Acting Regional Director Lisa Mendelson-Ielmini signed an agreement extending the partnership between the County and the National Parks Service for another 10 years.
“We move forward together, confident that Glen Echo Park is preserved and prepared to host more special memories,” Mendelson-Ielmini said.
The park attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, and has been part of the NPS since 1971. Montgomery County has dealt with the arts and entertainment programming in the park through the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture since 2002.
Under the new agreement, the National Parks Service will transfer control of the management, maintenance and operation of the park to the County, Dise said. This will allow issues in the park to be addressed faster – something Dise said the NPS has struggled with due to limited resources. Dise also said the County has played a greater role in park maintenance in recent years, so this extension just makes that role official
According to a May 11 press release from Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s (D-Md.) office, the previous contract expired on June 7. Dise said he proposed the idea of the County taking over maintenance and operation of the park to the NPS four years ago, but it wasn’t until Van Hollen questioned Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke at a hearing in May that the new deal became more of a reality. Zinke agreed to help Van Hollen with the extension, which expedited the process. This made the project a priority at a national level, which Dise said allowed the project to move forward at a faster rate than when it was being discussed only at the local level.
Since the park will now be operated by Montgomery County instead of the NPS, the park will stay open during any future government shutdowns. During the shutdown in October 2013, Leggett said he was ready to help remove the barricades and reopen the park as an act of civil disobedience.
“For my luck, the closure ended the following day, so I never had to test that,” Leggett said.
The County has not set aside any additional operational costs for the current fiscal year, since the federal government had already assumed those costs. Dise said next month will be “Glen Echo Month” in the Department of General Services, and he will sit down with his staff to map out the plan for the park for the coming year. Dise did not give an estimate of how much his department would set aside for maintenance and operation, but said the park needed a “facelift.”
“I’m driving over here this morning with a new set of glasses,” he said. “We need to get out our power washers and paint brushes and clean this place up.”