- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2009

The estimated 1.8 million people who attended Tuesday’s inauguration reduced the Mall to a barren wasteland, and it will likely require some major work from the National Park Service.

The National Park Service, which is in charge of maintaining the area, already has a maintenance team and a natural-resources staff inspecting the Mall to find the areas most damaged by attendees in order to cordon them off.

“What is common after large events like inaugurations is the National Park Service will fence off areas using snow fencing to allow that turf to rejuvenate and be reseeded and in some cases resodded,” said Bill Line, a spokesman for the agency.

While no major structural damage has been reported, much of the grassy part of the Mall will be off-limits to the public for several months, giving the grass a chance to regrow.

The National Park Service likely will have a better idea of the damage and the types of maintenance required sometime this week when the natural-resources staff finishes its assessment, Mr. Line said.

“The Mall proved itself to be truly the people’s place during the inauguration,” said Judy Scott Feldman, the chairman of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall, a nonprofit group that is pushing the government to increase funding and efforts to maintain the Mall. “The question is, how can we take the Mall that is run-down and create a protocol for the future. The most important thing is that it is a public space. We must treat the space as a place that is going to be better than ever.”

The 600-acre Mall, which is one of the most popular national parks in the country, with an average of 25 million visitors annually, is used to taking beatings from major events. But some complain that the National Park Service is not doing enough to maintain the area’s grandeur.

“We don’t think you just seed the Mall again and again,” Ms. Feldman said. “The problems are deep. We need a program to deal with soil conditions and proper treatment of grass, watering, protective measures of trees. One of the major problems is dealing with the tents and stuff that covers the Mall for weeks at a time and heavy equipment that roams the area.”

The most recent major renovation of Mall took place in 1901, when it was expanded beyond the area between the Washington Monument and the Capitol.

“There is no time like now to do it,” Ms. Feldman said. “All this talk about getting jobs, with working on the infrastructure, include this for D.C.”