Park Service warns about Cherry Blossom crowds on the Tidal Basin this weekend

Now that spring has really sprung around D.C., it’s natural to want to get outside and enjoy the warm air.

And most years, with peak of the cherry blossoms approaching on the Tidal Basin, it would be the absolute perfect place to visit.

But not this year.

The National Park Service said it will be monitoring crowd sizes closely, and if things get too crowded, the area around the Tidal Basin, including East and West Potomac Park, will be closed until after peak bloom ends.

“We’ll keep access to the Tidal Basin open as long as we can,” said Mike Litterest, a spokesman for the National Park Service.

“But if and when we determine that crowds have gotten to the point that they can no longer meet social distancing guidelines or D.C.’s mass gathering limitation, we are prepared to close to all vehicular and pedestrian traffic access to that area.”

Decisions will be made with input from National Park Service staff and U.S. Park Police patrolling the area.

“The scenario exists where if everyone follows the suggestions and pays attention and stays away we won’t have to close it,” he added.

But Litterest conceded, that “based on what we saw last year, we expect that those crowds could be reached before peak bloom arrives.”

If that happens, “it’ll be closed all the way through until the other side” of peak bloom, which is expected to arrive over the next week, he said.

Closures will be imposed even during hours that are normally less crowded, like early morning or later at night.

“We looked at the possibility of whether we could open it in the morning or in the evening, but ultimately if you do that you just move those large crowds to those times,” Litterest said.

“We’ve been encouraging people this year to experience it virtually, stay away,” he added, noting the National Park Service has set up a “BloomCam” again this year.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is also encouraging people to visit other parts of the region where trees are in bloom to get outside without crowding too close together.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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