We were preaching in Bristow, Virginia in the spring of 2015 when Pastor Ken Taylor brought up the idea of bringing City Reach to Washington DC and setting up the tent on the National Mall. I told him that I had been praying about it for years and that I would absolutely be willing to do it. We began praying about the arrangements right that moment.
Pastor Ken Taylor went to work on the process very soon after that. He found you can not make specific application to the National Park Service until one year from your event, so in September 2015 he began jumping through the necessary hoops. It has been quite a frustrating experience for him at every step of the way.
We were originally given hope of two locations on the National Mall and told that our dates would be dependent on which location we were ultimately given. He was told those dates would be forthcoming very soon. Every week, every month the response was same, soon.
Bro. Taylor eventually hired someone that knows the process of events in DC and she went to work on it. She faced some of the same stonewalling and delays but finally had a break through this week.
He received an email with seven attachments, many of them multiple pages, of "some information that you need to read in order to have a successful event on parkland."
The information is mostly a list of regulations and requirements that is extensive, exhaustive and expensive. I spent a few hours overnight going through the information and making three lists in my mind.
1. Okay, we can do that.
2. That is ridiculous but we might be able to do that.
3. What in the world is that?
Here is one of items that fall in list number 2. "Permittee shall provide drawings for all tents (including foundation/anchoring systems)...All temporary structure drawings must be signed and sealed by a professional engineer licensed in the District of Columbia."
I am sure that is expensive but probably doable. There were a bunch of things in this category.
One of the items for list number three is this. The whole tent area and the walkways must be covered by a protective decking. "Protective decking will be installed slightly larger than the footprint of the structure and pathways to the tent entrance(s)." Oh and plywood is NEVER an acceptable protective decking in the park.
One of the attachments gives the requirements for the protective decking. It is interlocking translucent material that allows the sun though to the grass and also allows the grass to breathe. (As I type this I am sitting under the tent on carpet that covers the platform area. When we leave the grass will be mashed down but it will survive, revive and thrive.)
This decking the deal breaker. It is provided by local companies and is absolutely required. Bro. Taylor called one of the approved providers and received a call back with a price. I asked Bro. Taylor if I should be sitting down when he told me the price. He said that laying down probably would not even help.
You ready? Fasten your seat belts and make sure the tray table in front of you is in the upright and locked position.
The local approved contractor could provide the approved decking and install it for the length of the event for the low, low price of $17,400. Did you get that? $17,400 to protect the grass on the National Mall. Not all the grass on the National Mall, but the grass in a 50'x150' space big enough for our tent and the walkways to the tent. Wow!
There are many thousands of dollars of other costs as well including the drawings, the extra and more extra insurance they require, the tree fencing, the security, the park personal that have to be onsite and the $1000 per day deposit that must be given 14 days before the event to cover potential additional costs such as "turf damage."
What turf damage? I thought the $17,400 protective decking would prevent turf damage.
Keep in mind, they told Bro. Taylor early on that the use of the National Mall is free. it belongs to the people. Yep, we the people.
As you can imagine, that pretty much kills the idea of putting up the tent on the National Mall for now. The money could be raised. There are people and churches willing to help. I am pretty confident it could be done.
However, at this point we are talking about $30,000-50,000 or more over and above the high budget we had already figured for this particular city. That amount of money could be used much more effectively for ministry elsewhere.
As I mentioned, this has been extremely frustrating for Bro. Taylor. He has spent hours and money out of his own pocket to make this a reality. He has worked and called and planned only to be sent information a year after beginning that would have changed his whole approach IF he had this information in June of last year.
I am disappointed. Bro. Taylor is disappointed. I know that many of you are now disappointed. What do we do now?
Bro. Taylor is exploring other locations in the DC area. In fact, he had already started exploring those options before this in the midst of all the delay. He has nothing definitive yet but he is working on it. I will keep you informed as we know more. We still intend to go to Washington DC if it can be done.
I appreciate Bro. Taylor's vision. I appreciate his passion for my dream of reaching the lost and hurting in cities and particularly Washington DC. I appreciate the time and effort he has put into it. Let us pray that God will guide him the next few days.
Thank you for praying for us through this whole City Reach process. That is exactly what it is, a process. A long, winding, frustrating, disappointing and often discouraging process. But the people getting saved in Tulsa this week are worth it! The people that are bound by sin in our cities are worth it. So, we press on!
Thank you and God bless you.