National Mall Disrepair
CNN features, on the 4th of July no less, a piece entitled “National Mall in monumental disrepair, activists say.”
This gathering place known as America’s “front yard” stretches from the Capitol to the Potomac River and is home to the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials and Washington Monument, but it’s starting to look like “an old rundown, worn-out mall that looks like it was abandoned 30 years ago,” says Judy Feldman of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall.
People are part of the problem. The National Mall has more visitors each year than Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon parks combined, according to the National Park Service. “If you had 25 million people coming through your front yard, it might not look so nice either,” said Bill Line of the park service.
The mall has an annual budget of about $31 million. But its backlogged maintenance needs are estimated at more than eight times that amount — $258 million.
I drive past the Mall twice a day during the week and visit it quite often on foot. The main aesthetic problems, it seems to me, are the ugly security barriers and the scourge of tour buses.
Whining about the grass being spotty or the proliferation of tents selling souvenirs and foodstuffs, though, strikes me as silly. This being the height of tourist season, there are hordes of people trampling over the grass. It’s simply not going to look like a golf course. (John Denver set forth the relationship in song a quarter century ago: “More people, more scars upon the land.”) Moreover, even if it did, you wouldn’t be able to see it with with all those people. It’s a major tourist destination and people want to eat and buy crap like CIA t-shirts to prove that they visited the nation’s capitol and demonstrate their unique, ironic wit.
One would think it would be relatively easy to lay on additional staff during the peak months to ensure that the trash cans don’t overflow. Beyond that, though, performing major repairs and preventative maintenance is not only expensive but it generally requires closing popular attractions or, at minimum, rendering them much less enjoyable for months, if not years, on end. One doesn’t simply call out a repairman, write a check, and have it done between noon and 4 pm next Tuesday.