The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Dear Coalition Friends:

Great news, mostly!

THE GOOD: We have received word from the Senate Energy Committee that Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton — boss of the National Park Service (NPS) — has formally stopped any additional work on the visitor center and tunnel at the Washington Monument. Her actions follow upon the Senate’s nixing of funding, as reported in our September 28th email UPDATE, copied below.

THE BAD: However, the NPS still plans to move ahead with the landscape part of the security plan. That includes 30″ high barrier walls surrounding the Monument 400′ out from its base, to stop truck bombs; elimination of the parking lot; major regrading of the Monument grounds; and tree planting. The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) gave final approval to that part of the project, but the NPS never took it before the Commission of Fine Arts for either preliminary or final approval, as required by law.

The Coalition has objected to the LOCATION of the barrier walls on the open grass of the grounds, where they will impede pedestrian movement and restrict how the public can use the great open space. We have repeatedly proposed an ALTERNATIVE which, however, the Park Service has refused to consider.

In our opinion, they should be placed, instead, along the perimeter of the grounds, near the sidewalk and street (as at all the other public buildings in Washington) where they would stop a truck or car from coming anywhere near the Monument and keep any potential blast from destabilizing the soils supporting the Monument’s 120-year-old foundation. At street level, the barrier could consist of an attractive combination of retaining walls, bollards, and reinforced street furniture such as benches, planters, and so on, in keeping with the NCPC’s Design for Security Plan.

AND THE UGLY: In what is customary (and, we believe, illegal) practice, however, the Park Service started pre-construction activities already in September, erecting obtrusive 8-foot high plywood fences around the Monument grounds, closing it off from view and from access. You can see a small portion of the construction fence on our website, with a “closed” sign at the parking lot — one of the few public parking areas for the Mall, now eliminated.

This is a major defeat for the Park Service’s hastily concocted “security” plan for the Washington Monument, thanks to the Senate; to the Coalition and the Committee of 100, among others, who have been fighting a dumb plan; and to the media who informed the public and Congress about the controversy.

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HERE IS OUR MESSAGE FROM SEPT. 28th:

The Senate-passed Interior Appropriations bill also puts a stop on the Park Service’s plans for an underground visitor center/tunnel at the Washington Monument.

The amendment, S. Amdt. 1777, was sponsored by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), the ranking Democrat on the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. It was included in the managers’ amendment package to the Interior Appropriations bill and was adopted by the Senate by voice vote. Both Senator Jeff Bingaman’s (D-NM) amendment (banning commercial advertising on the Mall) and the Dorgan amendment are subject to the House-Senate conference negotiations on the Interior bill.

We also hear that, in addition to Bingaman and Dorgan, the Chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), has serious reservations about the tunnel plan, especially the cost.

Here’s the text of the Dorgan amendment:

S. Amdt. 1777. Mr. DORGAN proposed an amendment to the bill H.R. 2691, making appropriations for the Department of the Interior and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2004, and for other purposes; as follows:

On page 24, line 5, immediately following the colon, insert “Provided further, That none of the funds provided in this or any other Act may beused for planning, design, or construction of any underground security screening or visitor contact facility at the Washington Monument until such facility has been approved in writing by the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations:

 

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