The Capitol Police killed the hopes and dreams of thousands of D.C.-area children (and at least a few dozen Hill staffers) Wednesday night when it reaffirmed a city ban on sledding on the Capitol grounds.
Frank Larkin, chairman of the Capitol Police Board, seemed to realize he’d be ruining the snow days of many of the Capitol’s youngest residents when he said that his hands are tied by regulations dating back to the 1800s.
“If the forecast holds true, there are many families who will want to enjoy the snow tomorrow. Although, for security reasons, the Capitol grounds are not your typical neighborhood hill or playground,” Larkin said in a statement, an apparent nod to precisely the reason the Capitol grounds remain such an enticing sledding opportunity for so many.
He seemed to get the allure. But Larkin said he couldn’t, not even just for one day, not even during a huge snowstorm that’s expected to drop six to eight inches on the city, tweak a regulation written – clearly by 19th-century scrooges – banning play on the Capitol grounds.
“It shall be the duty of the Capitol police on and after April 29, 1876, to prevent any portion of the Capitol Grounds and terraces from being used as playgrounds or otherwise, so far as may be necessary to protect the public property, turf and grass from destruction or injury,” the regulation reads.
“Unfortunately, the board cannot grant exceptions to the Traffic Regulations for the United States Capitol Grounds or 2 USC § 1963,” Larkin said.
He did keep the city’s sledders hoping, though, by promising to “continue to review the regulations and implement updates as necessary.”
The statement is sure to be a huge blow to D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, another adult who gets it, but one who doesn’t think outdated 19th century rules should ruin everybody’s fun.
Norton wrote Larkin last month asking the Capitol Police Board to overturn the ban on sledding on the Capitol grounds. The board has until March 26 to formally respond, though it seems Washington’s kids shouldn’t hold their breath.
When it became clear what a novelty it would be to be able to sled on the Capitol grounds this week, Norton sent Larson a letter on Wednesday asking for a waiver from the ban March 5-8.
“This could be the last snowstorm the D.C. area gets this winter, and may be one of the best for sledding in years,” Norton said, getting it.
“Children and their parents should able to enjoy sledding on one of the best hills in the city. This is a one-time waiver that will allow Washington kids to sled while we await a more formal review of the ban, which will likely come after the last snow has fallen in our region,” she said. “Have a heart, Mr. Larkin, a kid’s heart that is.”
Mr. Larkin, it seems, had none.