It’s America’s birthday party in what is often called the nation’s backyard. But this year Uncle Sam is hoping to save a few bucks by pushing off the celebration’s cleanup until daybreak.
To help cut overtime costs, the National Park Service said it is postponing trash cleanup until Friday after the annual Independence Day concert and fireworks celebration Thursday on the Mall. The change is one of several effects of the across-the-board federal spending cuts known as sequestration on the July Fourth celebration.
“No overnight trash pickup,” Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson said. “Instead, staff will be picking up trash on the day of the 5th.”
The West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol is traditionally the site of the nationally televised program “A Capitol Fourth.” That event will go on unaffected, this year featuring musical performances by Barry Manilow and “American Idol” winners Candice Glover and Scotty McCeery among others. Composer John Williams is scheduled to conduct the National Symphony Orchestra in a performance of his music from the film “Lincoln.”
The fireworks display will also go on as usual, beginning at 9:10 p.m., lasting 17 minutes and involving 3,000 fireworks.
But a concert on the Washington Monument grounds has been canceled, which saved the Park Service about $200,000. The monument grounds have been fenced off by construction crews working to repair the 555-foot obelisk after it was damaged by the August 2011 earthquake.
Ms. Johnson did not have a dollar amount that will be saved in overtime by postponing trash collection, but she said the fireworks display alone costs $259,000 and it’s usually been an “all-hands event.”
“In past years, once the crowd thinned out and was pretty much gone, maintenance crews would come in and start cleaning,” Ms. Johnson said. “It would be an all-night thing, and by the time people were coming back to the Capitol, coming to the Mall, it’s cleaned up.”
This year, early morning joggers might just spy Park Service Superintendent Bob Vogel amid the blankets, bottles and bags left by the quarter of a million people who flock to the Mall for front-row seats to the fireworks show. And even those people are being asked to lend a hand.
“We’re going to be handing out to visitors a trash bag and recycling bag at entry points, hoping people will help a little,” Ms. Johnson said. “It’s pretty big. It can be bottles, all kinds of stuff, but mostly just trash.”
Normally, the overtime hours are logged by Park Service employees at office headquarters and by rangers helping to direct traffic and visitors around the Mall and memorial parks.
Non-holiday shifts begin at 6 a.m., while other Park Service employees head to work as late as 8:30 a.m.
“Because it’s overnight, it won’t start smelling in the heat,” Ms. Johnson said, adding that the Park Service employees along with the 100 volunteers will be cleaning throughout the day Thursday, rather than leaving everything until Friday. About 100 staff members and 150 volunteers will be on the Mall on Thursday.
Park Service officials have installed 18,000 feet of chain-link fence, 14,000 feet of bike racks and 350 portable toilets.