Fort Reno Concert Series Saved; Agreement Reached With NPS

Agreement between NPS and Fort Reno organizers means that the concerts will go ahead as planned

The Fort Reno concert series will go ahead this year as planned, after fears last week that the series would be canceled due to the unexpected cost of hiring a police officer to patrol the site.

The last-minute deal was reached Monday between concert organizers and the National Park Service.

The new agreement states that concert organizers will still have to pay for Park Police, as was originally mandated, but won't have to pay the entire amount upfront.

The series, which has been held in the park every summer for more than 40 years, was in jeopardy because only a month before 2014's first concert, U.S. Park Police told organizers they'd have to pay for an officer to be at the concerts before the National Park Service would grant them a permit.

In a statement posted to Fort Reno's website Thursday, organizer Amanda MacKaye said the associated cost would make it impossible to stage the festival.

"It will literally double the VERY small budget of the concert series," she wrote. "It will affect how many shows can happen because the money must be paid up front."

MacKaye is the sister of highly influential Fugazi and Minor Threat frontman Ian MacKaye.

After calls and emails from concert goers, D.C. Council members and two members of Congress, it was D.C. Shadow Senator Paul Strauss who was able to broker a resolution.

"The show will go on." Strauss said.

Strauss, who has more than a passing interest in the concert series having been the organizer of the events for several years in the 1980s and '90s, organized a meeting between the concert promoter, Park Police and the Park Service Superintendent. After the four emerged from an hour-long meeting Strauss announced a deal had been struck.

"Payment arrangements are being worked out, so the biggest obstacle has been resolved so there doesn’t need to be an upfront payment of $2000 before the series starts," Strauss said.

The Fort Reno concert series, held in Fort Reno Park in Tenleytown, provides biweekly, free, all-ages shows during the summer. It was first held in 1968 and it grew alongside the burgeoning hardcore music scene in the 1980s. The bands who played at the festival were wide-ranging, but many were associated with the popular D.C. record label Dischord Records.

Fans of the concert series started a petition in an attempt to save the 2014 season, and U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) sent a letter to an NPS congressional liaison Thursday requesting a review of the matter.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton also wrote to NPS Superintendent Tara Morrison asking for resolution, telling her the series has provided free entertainment to hundreds of music lovers and families over the years.

The big issues for the concert promoter was not only being able to find the $2,600 fee but the idea of having uniformed officers stationed at the events.

"In the past when police have been present I have had people say it made them feel unwelcome and uncomfortable," MacKaye said.

But Strauss says they’ve reached an agreement there as well.

"The park service is revising what they need in terms of security to make it more community friendly," Strauss said.

Lt. Allan Griffith with the Park Police said at least one uniformed officer will be on site for all concerts, but the officer will maintain a low profile.

"We will attempt to use less obtrusive measures like bikes, which are not so overt but ensure safety while diminishing the profile so it will not be unsettling to attendees," Griffith said.

The first concert of the summer is expected to be held July 7.

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