Showdown over Capitol Hill sledding ban?

Showdown over Capitol Hill sledding ban?
© Greg Nash

Though arguably the best hill in the district for sledding, D.C. residents won’t be allowed to glide down the nation’s front lawn anytime soon.

Authorities are resisting mounting pressure from elected leaders and area residents to lift the sledding ban on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol, setting up a potential snow-down between police and recreationists planning to gather at the hill Thursday afternoon.
 
Capitol officials say the grounds are not your “typical playground.”
 
“If the forecast holds true, there are many families who will want to enjoy the snow tomorrow,” Capitol Police Board Chairman and Senate Sgt. At Arms and Doorkeeper Frank Larkin said ahead of Thursday’s storm. “Although, for security reasons, the Capitol grounds are not your typical neighborhood hill or playground.”
 
Larkin said the Traffic Regulations for the U.S. Captiol Grounds prohibit sledding and other recreational activities. He went on to say there are over 20,000 sledding injuries in the U.S each year, a number that comes from an August study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the National Children’s Hospital’s in Columbus, Ohio.
 
The study found that from 1997 to 2007, emergency rooms in the U.S. treated an estimated 229,023 children and adolescents younger than 19 for sledding injuries which included fractures, cuts and bruises.
 
“For liability reasons, a growing number of U.S. cities are banning sledding on public property,” Larkin said. 
 
Earlier this week, Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-D.C.) asked Larkin to temporarily lift the sledding ban from Thursday through Sunday to allow residents to take advantage of the fresh powder that’s hitting the ground, but her request was ultimately denied.
 
The D.C. delegate, who has been trying to get the Capitol Police Board to overturn what she said is an “arcane regulation,” is still, however, urging the board to direct officers not to enforce the rule. 
 
“Because the Board did not enforce the sledding ban for many years, it is clearly within its power not to enforce it again during a four-day period,” she said in a news release.

Ban or no ban, Washingtonians are planning to sled anyway. An online petition to get Larkin to lift the ban on change.org had 811 signatures by 12:30 p.m. Thursday. The website said in recent weeks those attempting to sled on the Capitol grounds have been “brusquely” asked to leave the premise.

But residents are planning to take their chances and protest with a “sled-in” on the west lawn at 1.

In a statement, Capitol Police Spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider warned that Capitol Police are responsible for enforcing Capitol Traffic Regulations as they apply to the U.S. Capitol Grounds. 

“The USCP will continue to work with the Capitol Police Board to ensure the safety and security of the Capitol Campus,” she said.
 
Schneider did not respond to questions about how Capitol Police plan to handle the sled-in.