With a historic blizzard expected to wallop the D.C. area, residents are getting ready to hunker down and ride out the storm. But once it's safe to venture back outside, they'll be able to do something that's been banned for 15 years: sled down Capitol Hill.
In December, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton added language permitting sledding on Capitol grounds to a new federal spending bill, lifting a ban that took effect in 2001.
Language added to the 2016 omnibus spending package instructs Capitol Police not to interfere with sledders in the future, and President Barack Obama signed it into law.
The Library of Congress relays the language used in the bill:
"Use of Grounds.–The Committee understands the need to maintain safety and order on the Capitol grounds and commends the Capitol Police for their efforts. However, given the family-style neighborhood that the Capitol shares with the surrounding community the Committee would instruct the Capitol Police to forebear enforcement of 2 U.S.C. 1963 ("An act to protect the public property, turf, and grass of the Capitol Grounds from injury") and the Traffic Regulations for the United States Capitol Grounds when encountering snow sledders on the grounds."
Last winter, determined children and families gathered for a "sled-in" to protest the ban after U.S. Capitol Police warned that sledding was prohibited on Capitol Hill.
Local blog Popville.com reported details of the March 5, 2015 "sled-in," which was shared via a Change.org petition. "If you are up for a little civil disobedience, a sled-in is planned for today.... Come armed with sleds!" the petition said in part.
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While the sled-in wasn't legal, Capitol Police did not enforce the ban that day.
Holmes Norton said she's looking forward to giving families a chance to enjoy the snow.
"Capitol Hill is this city's iconic snow sledding hill, and Congress got out of the way, allowing our kids to freely enjoy what promises to be one of the best snowfalls in years," she said. "Last year, when D.C. families came together with strong community support for non-enforcement of the antiquated sledding ban on Capitol Grounds, they empowered our efforts in the Congress. All families need to worry about now is picking the best time to go sledding."