The residents of the Southeast Washington neighborhood of Congress Heights recently reached out to Superintendent Alex Romero at a community meeting in July, asking for help in “taking back” their neighborhood park.
Park Police Captain Richard Pope suggested that a good first step would be to host a “National Night Out” event at the park, located at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Malcolm X Boulevard. Lieutenant Lee Gaither and National Capital Parks- East District Manager Julie Kutruff organized the event and reached out to community members.
The event drew over 350 people from the local community to the park. The Park Police had a horse mounted officer, canine unit, representatives from the Park Police Explorer Program and a SWAT team armored vehicle on display. NPS rangers from Anacostia Park, Frederick Douglass NHS and the Civil War Defenses had displays and talked to visitors about local history, the Anacostia River, and junior ranger programs, highlighting the latter. Face painters and a bungee jumper drew in visitors, the community provided refreshments, and a local church provided music for the event. Staff received many “thank you’s” from community members and were encouraged to do additional events in the park.
The National Park Service has hundreds of parcels of land all around the District of Columbia and many serve as community parks for city residents. When communities and the National Park Service join together in these smaller urban parks, it is an amazing opportunity to connect people to parks. NPS and Park Police staff commit to a continuing partnership with Congress Heights and other communities around our parks for positive outreach and programming.