- The Washington Times - Friday, June 18, 2004

The National Park Service will close the National World War II Memorial during the Fourth of July celebrations to prepare the area for the massive fireworks display.

The closure will begin at midnight July 3 and continue through most of the day on July 5, Park Service spokesman Bill Line said yesterday. Visitors will be able to tour the memorial July 3.

Fountains inside the newly dedicated, $175 million monument will be drained, and large fireproof tarps will be placed over the memorial’s architectural elements to prevent damage from the fireworks’ falling debris.

“Of course, we will be severely criticized if we allow any damage to occur to the memorial,” Mr. Line said. “In order to prevent damage, we will have to cover certain portions of it, and that will take us some time to do.”

Park Service and fire officials yesterday hashed out specifics for closing the memorial, Mr. Line said, adding that the nationally televised fireworks display cannot be shifted to another location.

“I don’t know if we’ve got many options,” he said. “What do you give up? Do you give up the World War II Memorial, or do you give up the fireworks? I would venture to guess that the American public wants both.”

The memorial sits near the center of the Mall, where the fireworks display traditionally has been held. The site staged the largest gathering of World War II veterans during the monument’s dedication festivities on Memorial Day weekend. Groups such as the Arlington-based Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge Inc. held reunion events.

A representative of the nonprofit group, which represents about 7,000 veterans, said it’s regrettable — but understandable — that the World War II memorial will be closed this year and, perhaps, future Fourths.

The fireworks “have to be somewhere they can control them, and I imagine the areas that they can do that are kind of limited,” the representative said.

The National Park Service said the fireworks will be set off from a staging area on both sides of the Reflecting Pool, which is situated between the National World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial on the Mall’s west end.

Mr. Line said officials were aware during the memorial’s construction that its proximity to the fireworks staging area might present problems on the Fourth of July, adding that the memorial’s architects and designers recommended closing the site and using fire-resistant tarps.

He said there had been “a little bit of discussion” about moving the staging area for the Fourth of July, but no easy solution arose because “anywhere you shoot fireworks off, there will be debris.”

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