- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

Security experts have developed a plan to protect nine Smithsonian buildings on the Mall without intimidating visitors.

A $25 million proposal approved yesterday calls for replacing a variety ofbarriers with new landscaping, benches and attractive walls and fencing.

The plan, given preliminary approval by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), calls for modifications on the grounds of the American History, Natural History, African Art and Hirshhorn museums; the Freer and Sackler galleries; the S. Dillon Ripley Center; the Smithsonian Castle and the Arts and Industries Building.

Since September 11, 2001, concerns have mounted about terrorist attacks on national symbols.

“There is a threat because of our iconic nature,” said Douglas Hall, the Smithsonian Institution’s associate director of security.

Those fears led to an assortment of jersey wall sections, construction-grade concrete forms, chain-link fencing and heavy planters being used as vehicle barriers or to direct pedestrian access toward secured entrances.

The plan calls for new protective posts covered with decorative bronze or stainless steel sleeves, complementing the exteriors of the nearby museums.

Decorative benches, stone walls and terraces will be used in many locations, while large boulders will be positioned outside of the National Museum of Natural History. The Haupt and Ripley gardens also will be located within the secured perimeter.

“Taxpayers are paying for it; at least they can have a place to sit down after we put it up,” said Arrington Dixon, an NCPC member.

The NCPC reviews most major public projects proposed for the District and surrounding federal lands. The Smithsonian proposal drew its unanimous support.

The changes will offer “more lively, interesting beautiful spaces,” said Judy Scott Feldman, chairwoman of the nonprofit National Coalition to Save Our Mall.

Although permanent improvements already have been made at the National Air and Space Museum and were incorporated into the design of the recently opened National Museum of the American Indian, the new proposal calls for completion of improvements at other Mall sites within five years.

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