- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The grass on the Mall needs to be greener, and the historic park should be easier to access.

Those were among the suggestions offered at a symposium held by the National Park Service that’s seeking ideas on how the Mall should be improved and preserved.

The Park Service will solicit comments from the public on the Web through spring, then develop a final plan for changes by the end of the year.

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“Today’s symposium highlighted democracy at its best, with people from all around the country making their voices heard in an effort to ensure that the National Mall of today and tomorrow looks and feels the way the public wants it to,” said Vikki Keys, superintendent of National Mall & Memorial Parks.

Comments at the forum, held at the Naval Heritage Center in Northwest, ranged from concerns about large tents and equipment set up for concerts and other events to whether there were proper signs guiding visitors from the Metro subway system to the sights.

“The Mall is used tremendously, but it is hard to use,” said Richard Layman, a Capitol Hill resident who is a member of a citizens planning commission.

Parking spaces are limited, and visitors have to walk long distances to the memorials and museums on the outer edges ofthe Mall, which stretches 2- miles from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. He also said there are no convenient eating places or restrooms when museums are closed.

“This is the first time I’ve been here since 1972. I don’t remember the jogging paths,” said Michael Bolton, 57, of Katy, Texas. “It’s good having the joggers out here, but I’d rather have the grass.”

Mr. Bolton was referring to the brown, sandy trails in the center of the Mall, where grass was worn out.

Park Service officials said 10 tons of grass seed and about 3,000 yards of sod and turf are planted each year on the Mall, and up to four tons of trash are removed daily.

The main problem is improving transportation to attractions on the Mall for the 25 million annual visitors, said Ray Flynt, president of Travelers Aid International.

“Every visitor to Washington goes to the Mall,” Mr. Flynt said.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said Congress paid too little attention to the Mall.

“The vision of the Mall has literally been stunted,” she said at the symposium. “We’ve gotten used to the Mall. It’s like looking in the mirror. ‘My goodness. I haven’t changed.’ ”

Others offered ideas about expanding the Mall to make room for more memorials honoring future leaders or for events.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams said the Mall could be extended to other public property, such as Potomac Park, the Tidal Basin and the Southwest waterfront.

The Park Service has set up an online forum at https://www.nps.gov/nationalmallplan to gather public input.

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

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