Friday, January 9, 2009

THE NEGLECTED NATIONAL MALL

Los Angeles Times - The historic promenade that stretches from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol -- the place often called America's Front Yard -- is itself a monument to neglect.

Patches of the once-lush lawn have been trampled to dust. Half of the underground sprinkler system doesn't work. The sea wall around the Jefferson Memorial is sinking, and lately, wildlife is dying in the unfiltered waterways.

Bill Line, spokesman for the National Park Service, which maintains the Mall, likes to say it has been "loved to death," an American treasure battered by 25 million visitors a year -- more than Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks and the Grand Canyon combined. As the crowds have grown, the budget has shrunk, and with $350 million in overdue care, the park service cannot maintain a standard that befits what many consider a national jewel. . .

Though the 2 million people expected to attend Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration will do more damage than the park service can mitigate, advocates hope the historic ceremony will draw public attention to its little-noticed plight. . .

"We would call it a disgrace," said Caroline Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall, a year-old group working with the park service to raise half a billion dollars for a face-lift. There are plans to fix the light posts, upgrade the waterways and shore up the sea wall -- if the money can be raised.

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