Arts Desk

There Will Be No Concerts at Fort Reno in 2014 (!?!) (Updated)

fortrenoFort Reno will not host a concert series this summer due to a new National Park Service demand that the organizers hire a U.S. Park Police officer for each show. According to a post from Amanda MacKaye on Fort Reno's website, the venue's permit was stalled, and NPS "cited differing reasons as to why this had come up after all these years. The reasons felt vague and when asked for specifics, none were given," she writes.

"So as it stands today, not only does the concert series not have the funds to cover this cost at the last minute but we don’t feel we should have to do this without just cause," writes MacKaye. "...It will literally double the VERY small budget of the concert series." And so Fort Reno will remain dark—and a lot quieter—this summer.

In a  phone interview, MacKaye says the long-running free concert series was supposed to received its final permit at the beginning of June, but was instead told by the Park Service that the Park Police would require an officer to be present at performances, and that without compliance the agency could not issue a permit. The cost, according to MacKaye, is $55 an hour at a minimum of five hours per event—which would have come to about $2,600 for the summer. At present, the series has a budget of about $2,500, which covers the sound engineer and portable toilets. Everything else, including the band's time, is donated. Besides the cost, MacKaye says she objects to the timing of the request from officials. Fort Reno concerts typically begin in mid-summer.

MacKaye says she did have phone conversations with representatives from the Park Service and Park Police. A meeting was scheduled for yesterday, MacKaye says, that was supposed to include representatives of the Park Police and the Park Service as well as the Park Service ranger assigned to Fort Reno. MacKaye writes in her letter: "The meeting happened but none of the invitees attended except myself and one extremely kind NPS employee who works in the office where meetings are held but despite being familiar with the park and the concert series as being an annual event, knew nothing about why the permit was being stalled."

Spokeswomen for the Park Police and the Park Service both declined to comment immediately, but say they'll get back to Arts Desk.

MacKaye says she wants to have a conversation with officials about why the requirement is being insisted on now. Because the money for Park Police officers has to be paid up front, MacKaye says she wants to work out details like what would happen if the a show is rained out and rescheduled. "It's not as simple as, 'pay this money'," she says.

MacKaye says she was given two explanations for the requirement being imposed: She says NPS told her that all events for more than 100 people are required to have officers assigned. And she says Park Police told her that that there has been "heightened crime" in Fort Reno Park during the concert series. "I dispute that, because I’m there and I don’t see that going on,” she says.

MacKaye says that after yesterday's failed meeting, she informed the Park Service that "we would not be able to have the concert series and to let them know this would have a great impact on the community," from which she told officials they'd probably be hearing. She says the bands who were scheduled to perform are obviously upset, and that some are talking about organizing a petition or other response.

As for a potential fundraising campaign, MacKaye says raising the necessary funds from supporters probably wouldn't be an issue, but she's still thinking about whether Fort Reno should have to comply with the Park Service demand at all. “That’s a deeper moral question for me,” she says. For many reasons, she says, Fort Reno's concerts are unique. There are no sponsors, for starters. "All you’re getting is the music. It’s just bands in a park, that’s all it is...and those bands are committed to supporting a venue that is free of all trappings other than their music, and open to all people all the time," she says. "It’s for everyone. And there’s nothing else like it."

Update, 6:36 p.m. The Park Service has issued a statement, saying it looks forward to further discussions with Fort Reno organizers. And here is a list of the bands that likely would've played this summer.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery. This post has been updated.

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  • rocky wilson

    So our band CALAVERA SKULL was set to play thursday but will be playing a free show at 930 at THE BIG BOARD on H St NE. Come support us if your free, thanks!

  • rocky wilson

    (SATURDAY July 12th)

  • rocky wilson

    Sad News...

  • Myron

    Some jagoff from the US Park Police skips a meeting and effectively cancels an event that thousands of people enjoy. Thanks for nothing.

  • PWong

    I recently moved away from the DC area but as someone who had been going to Fort Reno shows for over 20 years (without ever a sense of there being "heightened crime" during the shows) this is very saddening and also a load of BS.

  • Tbonebullets

    Government incompetence. Some boob in upper-middle management somewhere decided to mis-apply some rule that doesn't need to be applied; thus disturbing a long-standing community event. If anyone with authority over at NPS is listening, please correct the decision and let the community have its show.

  • volunteer

    Why cancel the series? Why not do a KickStarter or other similar fundraising scheme to pay for the security? They would have the $600 for tomorrow's show before dinner today. Having rented public places for largish events on behalf of a non- profit, it is standard in the agreement of use that the permit holder pays for security. We often need 2 personnel based on 200 attendees. We try to find kindhearted community oriented cops who will volunteer (there are plenty) or pay the fees as required. We can usually get one volunteer and only have to pay one fee.

  • how about….

    So what if an acoustic band just gets up and plays. Is that against the law/regs?

  • Alison

    Is there someone we can write?

  • Anonatron

    Pure speculation here, but what about an uppity (and powerful) new neighbor to the park saying "enough of these punk kids and their racket"?

  • Mike

    "Heightened crime" is a claim that can be verified. Check the crime logs, WCP!

  • Stacey

    @ Mike: Yes it can be verified, and publicly-available crime data shows that crime has increased at Fort Reno about 15% over last year.

    Is that enough to justify requiring a police officer present? What is the threshold of increased crime rates at which we say a police officer needs to be present?

    In 2005, the GAO published a report revealing that NPS parks routinely failed to adhere to regulations requiring that they recover administrative and monitoring fees as established by a pre-set schedule. The National Capitol Region was a frequent offender.

    It's been some years since that report was issued and it sounds like the concerts have been skating by since then, and finally NPS is catching up to the report and enforcing rules that have been on the books for many years.

  • Pingback: National Park Service Responds to Cancellation of Fort Reno Concerts - Arts Desk

  • Dave

    So if MacKaye doesn't see crime it's not happening?! Amazing! We must live in the safest world since no crime can occur if this chick doesn't see it.

  • Northwesterneer

    Dave, you have no idea what you're talking about. There has never been a history of a single police event at Ft Reno. When you're ignorant of something, stop talking.

  • Northwesterneer

    This story makes absolutely no sense. Amanda's "Deeper Moral Question" is illogical.

  • Hi De Hi De Hi De Ho

    This is as opportunity for our elected Federal official, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, to actually do something for her constituents:

    Capitol Hill Office
    2136 Rayburn HOB
    WDC 20515
    phone: (202) 225-8050
    fax: 202) 225-3002

    Main District Office
    90 K Street, NE
    Suite 100
    WDC 20001
    phone: (202) 408-9041
    fax: (202) 408-9048

    S.E. District Office
    2041 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., S.E.
    Suite 238
    WDC 20020
    phone: (202) 678-8900
    fax: (202) 678-8844

  • Richard Phillips

    So why isn't Amanda/the organizers just trying to raise the money? I'd contribute and I'm sure they could raise it no problem?

  • c.timm

    Our company would be happy to donate the full amount due for the summer NPS police first thing in the am on friday and provide on site medical services at no cost. Email me at

    The NPS should be ashamed....

  • Will Mitchell

    "Yes it can be verified, and publicly-available crime data shows that crime has increased at Fort Reno about 15% over last year."

    Which data are you looking at? The relevant time period is summer.

    Here's 2012 vs 2013 from

    Are there numbers from another source? Please provide a link to that GAO report too. It's pretty cool that you knew about it right off the top of your head. What brought that to your attention?

  • likedrypavement

    NPS "looks forward to further discussions" but they blew off the meeting set up by MacKaye. They're an organization looking for excuses to do nothing.

  • Pingback: The Needle: Fort NoNo - City Desk

  • ww

    nanny government policies force liberal hipster concert series to shut down. the irony.

    nps is on a roll - successfully pushing the national book festival off the mall and putting the smithsonian folklife festival (a nearly 50 year tradition) on probation.

  • Northwesterneer

    Here's a funny story: The African-American run Go-Go series at Fort Dupont park has been paying for multiple cops for years, but the white people who run Fort Reno think they don't have to because they're different, or you know... privileged.

    I love Fort Reno, but there's a solid white racial privilege issue that no newspaper is covering... yet.

  • Jabber

    I believe I've seen a US Park Police car hidden up near the woods during many Reno shows in the past few years. If they wanted to pass along the cost to the permittee, they should have mentioned this months ago so the organizers could've either protested or raised the money!

    I think the organizer(s) made a good call to cancel the shows on principle. Why should they have to scramble to raise money, regardless of how easy it would be? (And I suspect it would have been easy.) The US Park Police and National Park Service have a responsibility to be timely with permit applications and clear about the rules - for all events, and especially for such a long-standing and beloved event. They made a big error, and deserve all the heat they catch for this.

  • Stacey

    @ Will: Tried to post the links but the moderator ate them.

    If you go to google books and search you'll find the GAO reports--there are several years of them--outlining their findings that NPS routinely fails to impose fees per their own regulations.

    As for the summertime crime versus year round, since the fee policy is implemented year round, it's my view that the crime rate for the full year should be considered when evaluating whether or not an assigned officer is warranted. If NPS argued that an officer was only required for special permits during summer months, then summertime crime rates alone would be the relevant statistic, but as far as I can tell, that isn't what NPS is saying.

    Note I'm not saying that an officer IS necessary. Merely rebutting the organizer's argument that crime hasn't increased. It's a pretty easy statistic for everyone to see....there's no need to rely on anecdotes.

  • VideoMonkey

    Both parties choosing to make a point rather than be productive. Seems like most people could get this worked out in a matter of about 15 minutes.

    If the MacKayes aren't up to the job (and I'm not faulting them; they certainly got shit on by USPS) maybe someone else can step in and make this happen. It would be a shame to lose Fort Reno because (and I'm talking about BOTH sides here) got butt-hurt.

  • drez

    @ Northwesterner: interesting.

    $2600 is chump change. Wouldn't even dent a councilmembers constituent service fund budget.

  • beth b

    @northwesterner do go-go bands even want to play Fort Reno? When I was booking shows (2002-2006 or 7) I never had one go-go submission cross my mail slot.

  • Northwesterneer


    I would be interested to hear much more of your impressions of this exchange because of your experience with running Ft Reno.

    Technically, I don't believe that Ft Reno should be booked only based on submissions, but I'm not faulting you for how you ran it.

    My point was not that GoGo bands WANTED to play Ft Reno, but that the Fort Dupont series, which was roughly the same as Ft Reno except, you know, each was segregated, always paid for cops to monitor it because that's how it's done in DC. Only Amanda had the privilege of not paying.

    I spoke to an elected representative about this (but am not naming names) and they told me there was an unfairness based on race that they felt needed to be addressed fairly across the board- everyone pays for security.