- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 1, 2004

Keeping the Fourth of July tradition of a massive fireworks display and concert on the National Mall this year comes at the price of tightened security and the partial closing of several monuments.

The U.S. Park Police will inspect coolers and bags of visitors who enter the Mall through 19 checkpoints to “ensure the same level of public safety and security as last year.”

Ten checkpoints are spread along Constitution and Independence avenues on both sides of the Mall. Others are peppered around its east and west ends.

D.C. Metropolitan Police officers will monitor a network of 14 closed-circuit video cameras eyeing the crowd on the Mall, the Capitol, the White House and Union Station for suspicious activity.

“Major arteries and highways that pass through downtown” also are under watch, said police, who will deactivate the network “soon after the conclusion of the fireworks.”

Headlined by the National Symphony Orchestra, a 90-minute free concert starting at 8 p.m. Sunday on the West lawn of the U.S. Capitol, will feature stars such as Vince Gill, Amy Grant and Barry Bostwick.

The show’s finale will be matched by a spectacular display of fireworks set to go off at 9:10 p.m. The pop and glitter can be seen from miles around, but those who make the trek to the Capitol to hear the music and watch from their lawn chairs or spread out blankets will enjoy perhaps the best view as the fireworks light up the night sky.

Other popular spots for viewing the fireworks include East and West Potomac parks, the Ellipse, Capitol Hill, Anacostia Park, the Iwo Jima Memorial and along the George Washington Memorial Parkway on the Virginia side of the Potomac. WMAL-AM will broadcast the free concert beginning at 9:10 p.m. to accompany the display.

Several monuments on and around the Mall will be at least partially closed. A section of the Vietnam Memorial is boarded off while new lighting is installed, and the newly dedicated World War II Memorial will close entirely from late Saturday through Monday. Its fountains will be drained, and large fire-resistant tarps will be draped over its architecture to protect from debris from the fireworks, set off just west of the memorial.

Other partial closures include the Washington Monument and the back side of the Capitol, which are largely surrounded by boards because of construction.

The National Park Service is discouraging such activities as badminton or frisbee on the Mall and warns that glass bottles or personal grills are not allowed. Possession and consumption of alcohol also is prohibited on the Mall and in all surrounding federal parks. Bottled water will be provided for visitors to the Capitol grounds.

Personal fireworks also are banned. The District, Maryland and Virginia have varying fireworks laws. The District and Virginia allow minor fireworks, but both prohibit explosives and fireworks that move after being set off. All three jurisdictions allow hand-held sparklers, although each sets specific restrictions. The generally accepted rule is that sparklers less than 20 inches long and containing no chlorates or perchlorates are allowed.

A list of rules can be found at the National Council on Fireworks Safety Web site, www.fireworksafety.com. The fireworks rain date is Monday.

The Department of Homeland Security is taking the danger of terrorism on Independence Day seriously, although as of yesterday, it had not raised the national threat level above Code Yellow, for “elevated.”

Ramped-up scrutiny of visitors most likely will clog the District’s main arteries, so the Park Service is urging the use of public transportation. Metro will be open from 7 a.m. to midnight on the Fourth.

The public is being urged to use the following stations: Arlington Cemetery, Rosslyn, Pentagon, Foggy Bottom-GWU, Farragut West, McPherson Square, Federal Triangle, Metro Center, Gallery Place-Chinatown, Capitol South, L’Enfant Plaza, Federal Center SW, Archives-Navy Memorial, Judiciary Square and Union Station. Smithsonian station, located directly on the Mall, is closed all day on the Fourth. Parking near the Mall is extremely limited.

Warnings about heavy alcohol consumption came from the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, which calls the Fourth of July “the deadliest drunk-driving holiday.” The nonprofit group is offering free cab rides throughout the metropolitan area on the Fourth. The number to call is (800) 200-TAXI.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide