- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 21, 2009

Large swaths of the Mall will be fenced off from visitors and events to help restore the area after 1.8 million people trampled it during last month’s historic presidential inauguration.

The “tree boxes” that run parallel to Madison Drive and Jefferson Drive on the north and south parts of the Mall will be fenced off, possibly for several months, according to officials from the National Park Service.

“These areas will not be available to the public to allow root structure and grass to regenerate themselves,” said Bill Line, a spokesman for the Park Service, which is in charge of maintaining the Mall. “From a natural resources or botanist standpoint, it is best to keep these areas off limits.”

None of the American Elm trees that line the Mall are believed to be in danger or have significant damage from the inaugural events, and it is not clear when fences will actually go up, Mr. Line said.

The center panels of the Mall, which have had little or no grass since the inauguration, will remain open to the public because several events are scheduled to take place in the area in March and there is not enough time for significant grass growth.

National Mall advocates say the 700-acre park suffers from a $350 million maintenance backlog, including a sinking sea wall around the Jefferson Memorial. They say an infusion of funding could immediately put people to work on repairs.

House Democrats removed $200 million from President Obama’s economic stimulus package that would have been devoted to renovating the Mall after Republican lawmakers complained that the expenditure was wasteful and would not provide enough jobs.

The 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 during major events, but some complain that the Park Service is not doing enough to maintain the area’s grandeur.

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

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