2 Pave Helipads Proposed for Mall (The Washington Post)

By Linda Wheeler, The Washington Post

The National Park Service wants to pave part of the Mall to create two helicopter pads and a walkway connecting them.

The proposed World War II memorial would take away space that helicopters use on one side of 17th Street, and the Park Service has proposed paving two spots on the west side of the Washington Monument grounds to make up that loss. Each landing pad would be 24 by 24 feet.

The proposal drew immediate criticism from Judy Scott Feldman, a co-chair of the National Associa-tion to Save Our Mall, a group that has campaigned against locating the World War II memorial between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. The group recently sued to stop construction of the memorial on the Mall.

The Park Service, in a letter to the historic preservation officer for the District, says that if the memori-al is built, the current landing spaces will be lost because they are con-sidered too close for safety considerations.

The historic preservation officer for the District would have to sign off on the new landing pads.

Currently, visiting heads of state land on or near 17th Street and make use of the sidewalks near the Rainbow Pool, where the World War II memorial is to be built. Occa-sionally, the president¹s helicopter lands there as well.

Feldman was indignant. “How do they have the nerve to continue to spread across 17th Street onto the Washington Monument grounds?” she said.

“The Park Service has a total dis-regard for the National Register of Historic Places and for historic preservation law,” Feldman said.

John Parsons, deputy regional di-rector for the Park Service, said yes-terday that a task force of agencies, -including the Secret Service, had agreed that the two sites on the west end of the Washington Monu-ment grounds were the best of sev-eral considered for the landing pads.

Parsons said access to the World War II memorial was one of the concerns discussed.

“We came to an agreement on how we would do this,” Parsons said. “By placing the helicopter pads 150 feet into the monument grounds, we can keep the [World War II memorial open during the arrivals.”

Parsons also said that having an area suitable for head-of-state arrivals was a consideration. There are 15 to 25 such arrivals each year, he said. “We needed an appropriate ceremonial area,” he said.

Parsons said the various agencies were also concerned about where helicopters could land during the construction of the World War II memorial, expected to begin in the spring. The agencies want to have the landing pads built in the mean-time.

He said the lauding pads would have to go through the usual approval process, which involves several federal commissions, including the Fine Arts and National Capital Planning commissions.

Feldman said her group is pre-pared to oppose the pads whenever the proposal is presented in a public forum.

“This is mind-boggling,” she said. “This is a total new construction process on yet another historic and registered piece of land. We will go to all those meetings and de-mand they follow the law.”