- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The National Park Service is asking visitors and local residents how to improve and preserve the Mall.

The Park Service today will hold a symposium during which officials will collect suggestions from the public to help repair, preserve, beautify or expand the 2-mile historic park.

“We are not talking about wholesale, massive changes,” said Bill Line, a spokesman for the Park Service. “We are asking how they would like the National Park Service to develop the Mall for the future.”

The symposium will be held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the auditorium of the Naval Heritage Center at 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

Park Service officials will review the suggestions, and a plan is expected to be drafted by the summer. More public meetings would be held for any corrections and additions.

The planning process could take up to two years and cost about $800,000, officials said. There is no deadline to act.

The developments and changes “should be no surprise,” Mr. Line said, so that the Mall and the memorials on it remain recognizable to new and young visitors.

More than 25 million people visit the Mall every year, exceeding the number who trek to Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon national parks combined. As a result, the Mall has begun to show signs of wear, such as badly worn grass. Other areas have been fenced or roped off behind “Closed For Maintenance” signs.

The question of how many memorials and monuments are enough for the Mall always features in any discussion of its future. Recent legislation designed to prevent overbuilding declared the Mall a “completed work of civic art” — meaning no more monuments can be built there.

But the legislation simultaneously greenlighted three additions: a visitor center for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. Ground was broken Monday for the King memorial, at the Tidal Basin.

Mr. Line said the Park Service has received, via the agency’s Web site, more than 1,000 suggestions on how to spruce up the Mall.

Judy Scott Feldman, president of the Rockville-based National Coalition to Save Our Mall, said people must work together to protect and improve the Mall, even though the process is “very complicated” because any changes must be approved by congressional and governmental agencies.

“Tourists come by the millions each year to visit the seat of government and the monuments and museums,” Ms. Feldman said. “The experience can be exhilarating and inspiring, but also frustrating as visitors encounter construction, security barriers and a lack of visitor amenities, including places to sit, good food, transportation and shelter.”

“We need one master plan for the future,” said Ms. Feldman, whose group held a series of forums in 2004 and produced a report on the Mall’s future. “The Mall should be the concern of all Americans. It is the nation’s symbol to the world of American founding principles. It is the people’s place where Americans celebrate what it means to live in a free society under the U.S. Constitution.”

Ms. Feldman said there are many acres of public land and parks nearby that could be added to the Mall to make room for more memorials.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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