- The Washington Times - Monday, June 21, 2004

Two summers after September 11, tourists are returning to Washington in droves — but the crowds expected for the coming Fourth of July festivities will face plenty of obstacles to seeing the city’s most famous monuments, landmarks and memorials.

The city’s newest monument, the National World War II Memorial, will be closed to visitors July 4 and covered with a tarp to protect against damage from the evening’s fireworks show on the Mall.

The Washington Monument also is closed that day.

Also off-limits will be half of the city’s most-visited site, the 19-year-old Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The monument’s east wall has been hidden behind a wooden fence since June 11 as part of a $1 million lighting renovation scheduled to last through October.

The timing of the project has left some visitors fuming.

“It’s ridiculous … to do this at the busiest time of the year, when people come to see the wall,” said Don Smith, 52, manager of a vigil site near the memorial.

Former Army Capt. Robert Foley, 57, said he traveled 3,100 miles from Myrtle Creek, Ore., to see his uncle’s name on the wall.

“I had two major heart surgeries and I need two eye operations and I drove all the way here to see my uncle’s name on the wall. And when I got here it was covered in plywood,” Mr. Foley said. “I called my two senators and congressman and their reaction was: ‘What? The wall has plywood over it? Nobody told us anything.’”

Jerry Porter, 57, who served in the Army infantry in 1967, said he has been looking forward to seeing the wall since it was built.

“I traveled with my wife and 13-year-old grandson from Point, Texas, and what we traveled all this way for isn’t even viewable.”

“There is never a good time to do this,” said Judy Keyserling, executive vice president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the nonprofit group that works with the National Park Service to maintain the memorial.

“We’re committing a million dollars to make this a better experience for visitors,” she said.

Miss Keyserling said officials posted a notice Feb. 5 on its Web site warning of the renovations.

The Washington Monument will be closed July 4 to accommodate TV crews filming fireworks from the top, said Bill Line of the National Park Service. The fireworks also make it unsafe for visitors, he said.

The World War II memorial will reopen on the afternoon of July 5.

Another impediment will be the closed section of Pennsylvania Avenue NW between Lafayette Square and the White House. That strip of Pennsylvania Avenue has been shut to vehicle traffic since 1995. The reconstruction project, which began in January, has made it off-limits to pedestrians, too.

The project is intended to make the area more scenic and more secure, said spokesman Doug Hecox.

Another obstacle for downtown visitors will be the construction area adjacent to the Capitol building. According to Capitol Police Officer Michael Lauer, the site of the Capitol Visitor Center has obstructed all eastern entrances.

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