Who Are the Park Police Trying to Please?

How long does it take to prune a tree? This is the sort of question that might occur to you as you walk down Washington, D.C.’s Massachusetts Avenue, near historic Union Station, where chain-link fences have blocked off several small parks for months.

The first of these fences went up last August, adorned with a notice from the National Park Service: “Certified arborists have identified hazards from two declining Linden trees. These trees pose a potentially serious risk to public safety because of their condition, location, and the number of people who use the area. The park will be enclosed with fencing and will remain closed until the safety hazard and other resource damage is addressed.”

A couple months later, another fence at another park down the street, and another notice: This time the park was being closed “to remedy hazardous conditions and provide needed maintenance to the park,” and this space too would “remain closed until the safety hazard and other resource damage is addressed.”

The trees have been shorn, but the fencing remains. This might have something to do with the obvious unspoken reason for the closures: The two parks—first the one, then the other—had for the previous year been the sites of one of D.C.’s largest homeless tent encampments.

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