National Capital Planning Commission

Achieving the Full Potential of Washington's Parks

CapitalSpace is a partnership initiative of the National Capital Planning Commission, the National Park Service, and the District of Columbia to develop shared strategies for working together on parks and open space throughout Washington, D.C., particularly in the city’s neighborhoods. The CapitalSpace plan represents the first time in almost 40 years that a comprehensive analysis of all of Washington’s parks and open spaces has been undertaken.

The Commission adopted the final CapitalSpace Plan on April 1, 2010. Commission staff continues to work with partnering agencies to implement the plan’s recommendations. Civic leaders, organizations, and individuals helped shape the plan through comments and opinions shared during the plan's development.

Cover of CapitalSpace Progress Report
Progress Report

The CapitalSpace Progress Report provides an update on the work of the partner agencies in implementing the six big ideas in the CapitalSpace Plan.

Download the full report »
Printed copies can be obtained by contacting .

Photo of students gardening
Coolidge HS Legacy Project

NCPC and its partners helped create outdoor rooms at Coolidge High for students to connect with the natural environment and provide healthy community green spaces.

Learn more »


CapitalSpace Overview (2:00 minutes)

Link the Fort Circle Parks (3:00 minutes)

Improve Public Schoolyards (3:00 minutes)

Transform Small Parks (3:35 minutes)

Cover of Capital Space Report

Download the CapitalSpace Plan

[PDF 7.87MB]

Sections of the Plan

Table of Contents and Overview [PDF 1.45MB]
This section includes the Plan's Vision, Planning Concepts, Overview of the Six Big Ideas and Implementation Strategy.

About Washington's Parks [PDF 1.88MB]
This section discusses the current state of Washington's parks and open space system, the challenges and opportunities in the cultural, historic, and ecological resources found in the park system and the benefits of parks and open spaces to the nation's capital.

Six Big Ideas [4.39MB]
This section discusses the opportunities and challenges, as well as the CapitalSpace recommendations for the Six Big Ideas. It also features model projects for some of them.

  1. Link the Fort Circle Parks/Civil War Defenses of Washington via a greenway, creating destinations.
  2. Improve public school yards to help relieve pressure on nearby parks and better connect children with the environment.
  3. Enhance urban natural areas to better connect residents to encourage stewardship for natural resources.
  4. Improve playfields to meet the needs of residents, workers, and visitors.
  5. Make center city parks more inviting and active.
  6. Transform small parks into successful public spaces.

Moving the Plan Forward [PDF 531KB]
This section identifies Key Priority Actions for the CapitalSpace partnership and implementation strategies that capitalize on the CapitalSpace partnership's ability to work together to address park issues and needs that are best tackled through the partnership's coordinated efforts.

Acknowledgements [PDF 222KB]

The Vision

The CapitalSpace partners envision a beautifulhigh-quality,and unified park system for the nation’s capital that:

  • Is safe and accessible to everyone who lives in, works in, or visits the city.
  • Includes a variety of parks and open spaces that connect communities.
  • Incorporates stewardship and celebration of natural, cultural, commemorative, and historic spaces.
  • Provides a diversity of passive and active recreation.
  • Contributes to a healthy, sustainable and livable city.
  • Serves as a national and international model of citizen engagement and parks and open space management and collaboration.

The Partners

During the last 200 years, Washington's park system has been shaped by many forces — prominent plans, legislation, public works, private initiatives - and a variety of agencies have been charged with developing and managing these open spaces. Today, several District and federal agencies oversee the planning, development, operation, and maintenance of these lands. Through CapitalSpace these agencies have joined together to coordinate existing management plans, maximize limited resources, and create a stronger park system for the city.

The District's primary recreation provider is the Department of Parks and Recreation whose mission is to maintain the District's parks and open spaces and provide diverse recreational opportunities to residents and visitors. Agencies such as the District of Columbia Office of Planning, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of the Environment also play key roles in planning, building, and maintaining parks and open space through broader community development strategies.

Almost 90 percent of the city's parkland — more than 6,900 acres including Rock Creek Park, the National Mall, Anacostia Park, and the Fort Circle Parks — is part of the National Park System. The National Park Service, whose mission is to preserve the nation's natural and cultural resources for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of all generations, is responsible for managing these parks. Two other federal agencies, the National Capital Planning Commission and the US Commission of Fine Arts, plan for and review proposed development that might impact Washington's parks and open spaces.

The CapitalSpace partners are working closely with the DC Public Schools which provides 30 percent of the city's playgrounds and fields, and the General Services Administration (GSA) that oversees many of the open spaces at federal facilities that are not part of the park system.

Many nonprofit organizations and private citizens also contribute to Washington's parks and open spaces by providing financial support and volunteers who help maintain the parks and provide technical expertise to help plan new parks or park improvements. The CapitalSpace partners are coordinating efforts with these groups as well.

Contact Us

Questions and comments should be directed to

National Capital Planning Commission -