US Capitol Re-Opens for Sledding

Norton: 'It is the least we can allow for our resilient children this winter season'

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A District childhood tradition. Photo: Holly Kilness Packett

Families flooded back to the west side of the US Capitol Monday night as US Capitol Police (USCP) re-opened the west facade to sledding. USCP closed the grounds Monday, citing danger from falling trees, but allowed public access around sundown.

Holly Kilness Packett brought her daughter from Dupont Circle to enjoy some winter fun on the Capitol Grounds in the light of a gorgeous Monday evening sunset. “It was a beautiful day,” she said.

USCP Officers were still keeping people away from dangerous trees, Packett noted, but were also laughing at the sledders as they slid down the hill and collapsed in piles at the bottom.

“Famiies were sharing sleds, it was lovely,” Packett said.

“It felt like DC was DC again.”

Families sled down the west side of the US Capitol, Monday, Jan. 3. Photo: Holly Kilness Packett
Climbing back up after the collapse at the bottom of Capitol Hill Photo: Holly Kilness Packett

A ban on sledding on the grounds was lifted in 2016 after national outcry followed reports of Capitol Police chasing children off the Hill. But during last year’s snowstorm, the Hill was inaccessable, fenced off after the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection. Police refused a request from DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to permit access to sledding families, citing security concerns.

Since 2016, Norton annually includes a provision in the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill directing the Capitol Police to allow sledding on Capitol grounds.

“This could be the only snowstorm DC gets this winter, and may be one of the best for sledding in years,” Norton said in a statement released Monday. “Children and their parents should be able to enjoy sledding on one of the best hills in the city.”

“Sledding is a simple, childhood thrill. It is the least we can allow for our resilient children this winter season.”

USCP confirmed that playing on the grounds was permitted as of Tuesday, adding that restrictions were imposed for everyone’s safety.

That morning, sledders on the west side of Capitol Hill said conditions were perfect for sledding: “Not getting kicked off and not that crowded,” one reported, “and not too icy, either.”