U.S. Park Police to patrol Arlington National Cemetery
by Monica A. Valdiviez-Wiley
FMMC Public Affairs
Visitors and regulars who travel by or visit Arlington National Cemetery now can expect to see U.S. Park Police on a regular basis thanks to an enhanced agreement between ANC and the Department of Interior. The Park Police say they will enforce the posted cemetery hours of operation and the 20-miles-per-hour speed limit.
"We have had problems with commuters entering the cemetery before it is open from Colombia Pike on their way to Memorial Bridge, traveling 50 to 60 miles-per-hour," said Thurman Higginbotham, ANC deputy director.
"People are jumping the walls and entering and exiting the grounds before and after operating hours," he said. "There has been extensive damage totaling $5,000 this year to cemetery gates and fences by visitors trying to get in and get out of the grounds."
New signs have been posted at entrances to the cemetery, similar to signs that are posted on military installations. These signs site the law according to the Alexandria U.S. Attorney General and Park Service police. The signs also state that individuals who enter the cemetery while it is closed are trespassers and are subject to legal ramifications, Higgenbotham said.
Bike riders are also cautioned that they must adhere to posted speed limits and rules of the road. "Some riders have been observed entering the cemetery from Fort Myer at the Chapel Gate traveling down the hill at excessive speeds," Higginbotham said. There have been several major bike accidents where riders have been seriously injured.
"Back in the 70s, we wrote a ticket for a biker who was going 40 miles-per-hour," Higginbotham said.
He said the new agreement is focused primarily on safety.
"We are not trying to make this a secure area because this is a seven-day-a-week operation. The public needs to understand that there are safety and security issues, and that it is not okay to be in the cemetery when it is closed," he said.
Higginbotham said that his concern is that someone could be injured and said that the tourist season begins in March and goes through October.
"There are 4 million people through here every year," he said. "We can't have people driving 50 miles-per-hour in the cemetery. My biggest fear is that someone's child will step out in front of one of these speeding vehicles.
"This is a head's up for people to be mindful. The cemetery is the same as any other installation, and the law will be enforced.
"Presently there are information guides posted at the entrances to the cemetery. These are contracted personnel whose function is to control traffic and provide information. The Park Police were called in to assist on an as needed basis.
The new agreement will provide for the Park police to patrol the cemetery on a regular basis in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations 32 part 553.
ANC is open to the public at 8 a.m., 365 days a year. From April 1 to Sept. 30, the cemetery closes at 7 p.m., and from Oct. 1 through March 31, it closes at 5 p.m.
Paid parking is available to visitors, accessible from Memorial Drive. During all hours the cemetery is open, the Arlington National Cemetery Metro stop is available, and the cemetery tour-mobile service is available.
Posted: 27 February 2001