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The National Mall Needs Attention

Monuments are falling apart, and the pond between the Lincoln Memorial and World War II monument needs to be cleaned.

| BY Kent McDill

From the Capitol building on the east end to the Lincoln Memorial on the west end, and the Smithsonian Museum buildings and the Washington Monument in between, the National Mall is a place where American history is most strongly felt.

It’s also in disarray.

National Public Radio recently produced a story on the state of the National Mall, and concluded with the question as to whether the country still needs that site, which has become a centerpiece of every major and sometimes minor cause of social change. Pope Francis recently blessed a crowd of millions at the National Mall during his visit to the United States.

The National Mall is sponsored by the Trust for the National Mall, which is the most American of open spaces and as such charges no admission fee for access.

According to Places Journal, the National Mall is “a remarkable space, one of the greatest public spaces in modern times, and it deserves to be repaired, restored and honored. Just think of its history, of the activism that is has been the setting for, from suffrage marches to the Bonus Army to Marian Anderson to martin Luther King to the AIDS Quilt to Stewart & Colbert’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” … and those are just some of the most famous events.”

Did someone say “repaired”?

The National Trust reports there is a maintenance backlog that would cost $400 million to catch up on. There is also a need for an estimated $350 million in upgrades and improvements.

According to MacKenzie Babb of the Trust for the National Mall, stones are falling off of the Jefferson Memorial, which is located south of the strip of land between the Capitol and Lincoln, on the other side of the picturesque Tidal Basin. The 38-acre Constitution Gardens, which sits between the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II memorial west of the Washington Monument, is virtually unused. The long thin concrete pond that extends from one end of the Gardens to the other is algae-filled and needs extensive work.

There are several other issues related to funding, where buildings originally designed for one purpose sit unused, and basic visitor amenities such as restrooms or concession sites are either unoperational or closed. Attempts to make the mall fully functional for visitors in wheelchairs have fallen by the wayside.

It is estimated the Mall attracts 29 million visitors each year, a total that is greater than the visitors to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks combined.

Babb describes the Mall as “a park that has quite simply been loved to death.”

The Trust has plans assuming it can find the funding necessary to complete them. The grounds around the Washington Monument, which itself just reopened after renovations, are scheduled for a new grassy amphitheater at a cost of $100 million. A company has been hired to verse renovation of Constitution Gardens, replanting dying greenery as part of a $160 million budgeted project.

The Mall receives federal funds, but that funding has dropped over recent years. And it competes for funding with the Smithsonian.

“Surely, we can muster the funds on behalf of the most important public space in America,’’ said Nancy Levinson of Places Journal to NPR. “What would it say to the world if we don’t, about our pride as a nation?”


About the Author

Kent McDill

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.