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Posted at 1:35 PM ET, 05/14/2008

Fort Reno Park Closed Immediately and Indefinitely

By David Malitz

The end of an era? Ian MacKaye of Fugazi plays Fort Reno in 1996. (Mark Finkenstaedt FTWP)

Fort Reno Park, the site of an annual summer concert series that is one of D.C.'s most beloved and longest-running outdoor events, is closed immediately and indefinitely after United States Geological Survey satellite imaging reports found high levels of arsenic in the soil.

William Line, a spokesman for the National Park Service, said that the NPS would continue to work with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to determine any public health risks and further courses of action. He refused to give any timetable for a possible reopening and said that to speculate would be irresponsible. Snow-fencing was erected around the perimeter of the park at 6 a.m. today.

The closing of the park raises questions about the fate of the Fort Reno Summer Concert Series, which was set to begin a twice-weekly series of free shows in mid-June. No list of artists of dates has been announced for 2008, but many of the city's most famous punk and indie rock bands have performed on Fort Reno's stage over the last 39 years, including Fugazi, the Dismemberment Plan, Ted Leo, Q and Not U and Velocity Girl.

We'll update this blog post with more information when we get it.

-- David

UPDATE: When contacted by phone, Fort Reno Summer Concert Series organizer Amanda MacKaye was caught completely off guard by the news. The NPS had indicated that groups with permits to use the park were notified of the closure, but apparently that wasn't the case quite yet. "It's almost comical in a way," MacKaye said. "Just this morning I was thinking how things were finally coming together, how we had a few shows lined up, and now this." She said she would provide further updates after speaking to her contacts within the NPS.

By David Malitz  | May 14, 2008; 1:35 PM ET
Categories:  Misc., Music  
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This is a terrible decision. People don't go to Fort Reno shows to eat dirt, they go to rock out. Something tells me this is just a convenient excuse absolve the park service from some perceived liability at the expense of a beloved institution.

Posted by: DCKid | May 14, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

The closure fences do seem a little overzealous, even the tennis courts are fenced off by the snow fence.

Posted by: Tenleytown | May 14, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I think the first commenter is completely right, either that or something that an ANC is pushing. People should protest the decision.

Posted by: TMS | May 14, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

nps should provide a new location for the concerts. this would have been my 6th year going and i will miss it!

Posted by: allison | May 14, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

How about Meridian Hill Park instead if they can't sort this out in time? Do they still have the fences up around the main field?

Posted by: pants | May 14, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse

its too residential at malcolm x park.

Posted by: mc | May 14, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

According to this article:
they've known about this problem for a long time. Why are they suddenly worried about it NOW!?

Posted by: julie | May 14, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Surely a temporary location can be provided, in order to continue the concert series until Ft. Reno can be reopened...

Posted by: cd | May 14, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

As a student of a school next to Fort Reno. I am very concerned at the sudden closure. Fences haave been erected surrounding my school, and i now have no way to get outside. Apparently, people have known about this for a long time, and I am surprised that I was allowed to go outside for recess to Ft. Reno park and nobody told me not to eat the dirt.

Posted by: WW | May 14, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse


That article dealt with the longstanding problem of arsenic in Spring Valley, which is a couple of miles away from Ft. Reno. This is a separate issue.

Posted by: DC | May 14, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Fenty is at Fort Reno right now inspecting. Let's hope he comes up with some kind of compromise.

Posted by: TMS | May 14, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

To those of you that think this is unfair and a poor decision: Don't get me wrong, I love Fort Reno and value highly everything that it has to offer, but these decisions were made with warrant. It's up to the NPS to ensure that Fort Reno is environmentally safe to the public, and until they've verified that, I don't think there's much we can do. I'd love more than anything to see the Fort Reno concerts continue this summer, but this is really not a matter worth protesting.

PS. Just a side note -any contact (internal or external) with high arsenic levels can be dangerous. Poisoning does not only occur through ingestion, so it's not an issue of people eating dirt.

Posted by: ERB | May 14, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

maybe all the fans of the fort reno concert series should plant sunflowers to help bio-remidate the site?

Posted by: kq | May 14, 2008 7:58 PM | Report abuse

oops - did they use biosolids to fertilize the ground? Because they use those for parks sometimes, and if they did, besides the fact that the senate is going to be looking into it in July, arsenic is probably the least of your problems.

Posted by: BQ | May 14, 2008 11:01 PM | Report abuse

can I sue Q and Not U for ending their set by digging a hole and then throwing the dirt into the air?? I am sure I ingested enough dirt that night to kill a third world country...

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2008 7:27 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps it will re-open right after they re-open Meridian Hill Park....about three years after they start working on it. Of course, speculation is apparently "irresponsible."

Posted by: eric | May 16, 2008 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Let's insist that the NPS and DC approve an alternate and safe site. We don't need to wait around while the necessary cleanup takes place--which I do think is vital for our kids and animals, who love playing on the grass and put their hands, paws, sticks in their mouths. SO can we focus on making a list of other possible locations and then evaluating which is best?

Posted by: Lucky's Family | May 16, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I hope all of the folks expressing their appreciation for the concert series are donating to the Northwest Youth Alliance to keep the series going...Pony up, Fort Reno fans!

Posted by: Fort Reno Fan | May 16, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I used to spend my summers in DC. The relative I stayed with lived across the street from Ft. Reno. I saw Fugazi a few times there (the summer "In on the Killtaker" came out (1994?) and Red Medicine I think). Amazing shows. It seems like it would rain and lightening every year.

The closing of this is so obviously politically motivated. Maybe neighbors complain. The government probably poisoned the soil on purpose.

Posted by: Bob Arino | May 16, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

i agree with bob arino...however apocoliptic it may sound...i think they are tired of all the crazy kids in the area and just want a reason to force them somewhere else...where are they gonna chill on those warm summer evenings? yea yea if there is not an alternative...there should be a REVOLUTION!

Posted by: tracey chapman | May 16, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

i have been going to the fr summer shows for the past 20 years. am i going to die?

Posted by: ian | May 16, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

this is a disaster for the dc music scene. all my friends from other cities all talk about how they wish they had a fort reno type thing in their town. fort reno gets national music media attention from big music blogs and sites. all ages shows have been what dc is all about. people need to call in to fenty and sort this out.

Posted by: disaster | May 17, 2008 10:51 PM | Report abuse

where is fort reno? never heard of it

Posted by: chuck | May 18, 2008 7:06 PM | Report abuse

that site though is definitely some type of secret government facility. there is always a cop car guarding the entrance. the whole thing is probably hollowed out with a huge covert agency in there. i know it sounds ridiculous but this has been an army base for hundreds of years...what do you think has been happening with the land that whole time?

Posted by: d | May 19, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

It's not a secret military installation, it's a reservoir. That's why they have cops around, to make sure al-qaeda doesn't poison the water...with arsenic or something.

Posted by: DCKid | May 20, 2008 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Fort Reno for Sale !!!
The Plan:

1.Frighten the People (do this in the morning and with a big fence)
2. The park service has no money for clean-up
3. A private delveoment company (Halliburton) has money to clean it up, but only if they can build new homes. Or office space or.....

Posted by: I want Fort Reno Back | May 25, 2008 12:08 AM | Report abuse

The park is OPEN! I live across the street from the park and saw people removing the fence. I went out and confirmed with the workers that the park has been reopened.

Posted by: Geof | May 28, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

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