The already crippled turf on the National Mall suffered additional damage last weekend as influx of protesters swarmed toward the Capitol. In spite of the best efforts of the park service, complete renovation efforts have yet to take root.
“It needs repairs, very much so,” said Joan Smith, a visitor from Maine. “I think Congress should put the money toward refurbishing it from the federal stimulus.”
When protesters leave town, the mall (known as 'America's front yard') is used for picnics, casual sports, and games of Frisbee. Although the grass has always been heavily trodden, currently large areas of dirt stand out in the faded grass, resulting in giant puddles of mud and slush during seasons of rain and snow.
Despite its noticeable need for maintenance, visitors are not quick to complain. Many visitors seemed to the National Mall did not seem to be bothered by the visible wear and tear.
“I was looking at that, and actually, for as much traffic as it gets, it’s in great shape,” said Michael Wade, a Florida resident in Washington, D.C. on business.
They also seem to understand that the National Park Service is doing what it can to rehabilitate the lawn while still allowing visitors to use it.
The general opinion is that though the lawn does need repair, it is better to have it accessible for use rather than fenced off. Not allowing the public on certain areas of the lawn disrupts the fellowship of those who use the open space.
“When you start closing those areas, you start pushing away the community,” said Deberah Lawson, an Arlington, VA resident who frequents the National Mall.
Visitors commented that the cleanliness of the area makes its current condition more bearable. The lack of trash on the lawn illustrates that even though it is worn, the area is still being cared for by both visitors and the NPS.
A fact sheet on the NPS website states that 10 tons of grass seed are planted annually at the National Mall. One area of the lawn is currently fenced off by the NPS, allowing that patch of grass to grow without disruption.
“It’s hard because people walk all over it, so to the best of their ability, they do OK,” said Emily Halter, a local resident.
Partnered with the NPS, the Trust for the National Mall is also dedicated to the restoration of the National Mall. According to its president, Caroline Cunningham, the goal of the Trust is to keep the National Mall maintained at the highest standards.
The concern of not being allowed to use the lawn while restoration takes place has been taken into consideration by the Trust.
“The Trust and the Park Service are committed to implementing best practices and sustainable infrastructure to ensure that the lawn is restored while remaining accessible to the National Mall’s 25 million annual visitors,” said Cunningham.
Even though the area is kept clean, some people feel as though the NPS and Congress could do a better job maintaining the lawn.
The recent federal stimulus that gave $56.6 million for repair and rehabilitation costs to the National Mall will not go toward restoring the lawn. The total of rehabilitation costs for the National Mall is $390 million.
The money was issued to three other projects by the NPS. The first is the current repair to the Jefferson Memorial seawall. This $16 million project is underway and will continue for possibly another year, said William Line, spokesman for the NPS.
The second project is the repair and rehabilitation of the reflecting pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Still in the design phase, the goal of this $30.6 million project will be used to create a re-circulating water system for the pool.
Also in the design phase is the third project, which will be an effort to turn the District of Columbia War Memorial into a band shelter where performances can be held. This will require the remaining $10 million of the federal stimulus money given to the NPS.
The 120-day public viewing period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement ended March 18th. The statement is over 600 pages and contains information about upcoming rehabilitation projects on the National Mall.
While it was on display, the NPS gave the community a chance to respond and submit comments about the draft before they create a final statement. According to Line, roughly 6,000 comments were received during this period. The NPS was able began analyzing the comments last Friday.
The draft statement included points regarding the lawn, and Line said there has been discussion as whether or not to fence off larger areas of grass for longer amounts of time.
“I’d rather be allowed to run and play sports on it, sit in the grass with my friends than have it look aesthetically pleasing,” said Kelly Rollman, a Bethesda, MD resident.
The National Mall plan has not yet been approved, and its impact on the lawn is uncertain.