Nonprofit Offers a Hand With Revitalizing the Mall

Posted November 13, 2007 at 6:31pm

The National Mall has nearly 25 million visitors a year, and it’s beginning to show. Walkways are cracked, benches are decrepit and unwelcoming, and the grass is patchy.

The nonprofit Trust for the National Mall is hoping to change this. The organization, which is working in partnership with the National Park Service, is set to kick off a revitalization effort Thursday.

“We are developing a board of directors and starting to raise funds in an effort to help restore the Mall,” said Caroline Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall.

The estimated cost for restoration of the Mall is around $350 million in deferred maintenance, Cunningham said. And she said there is no set time frame for the project yet. The NPS is still in the planning stages. The agency has agreed to make the trust an official partner in the effort, and the two will work to restore and preserve the National Mall in a timely fashion, she added.

“The trust will help fund the planting of trees, flowers and grass and fix up fountains and ponds,” former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and former Vice President Walter Mondale stated in a column supporting the project, published in Roll Call earlier this month. “It will boost public participation, with a bigger staff and a corps of citizen gardeners and other volunteers who share a commitment to restoring this urban oasis.”

Pending Centennial Challenge legislation that could help the project’s financial situation, Cunningham said.

“This funding, if approved by the House, will match private funds for signature projects across the park system,” she said.

The National Mall is among the top priorities and was “one of the initial projects named in the first year funding of the Centennial Challenge,” Cunningham noted.

The launch event will take place at the Constitution Gardens on the National Mall and will include a brief civics lesson taught by “George Washington” to students from Ann Beers Elementary School in Southeast D.C. The students, park and trust leaders, and volunteers from D.C. gardening clubs will begin restoration efforts by planting 3,000 daffodil bulbs in Constitution Gardens.

“Our project is in this for the long haul, and hopes to be around 20 or 25 years later and beyond,” Cunningham said.