National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) Rejects Park Service Plan

December 6, 2003

Dear Coalition Friends:

Good news. Yesterday’s Washington Post (Friday, December 5th) reports that the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) rejected Park Service plans for security bollards (concrete posts) and the design for 2 new visitor facilities at the Lincoln Memorial.

Sally Blumenthal, who presented the project on behalf of the National Park Service, and John Parsons, NCPC Commissioner representing the Park Service, attempted to bully the commissioners into giving both preliminary and final approvals, even though this was the first time that NCPC was seeing these two new structures. Commissioner Richard Friedman was particularly strong in rejecting their demands and instead calling for better design alternatives.

The Coalition testified in opposition to the current Park Service plan and applauds the NCPC’s decision.

Bollards Rejected at Lincoln Memorial

Planners Seek Alternative Designs for Security Measure, Concession Stand

By Monte Reel
Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, December 5, 2003; Page B05

A federal design panel rejected a plan yesterday for a 700-foot line of bollards on the east side of the Lincoln Memorial, saying the National Park Service’s security proposal would have proved a visual distraction.

The Park Service wanted the National Capital Planning Commission to simultaneously grant preliminary and final approval for the bollards — 36-inch-high posts that would have roughly followed the path of the circle drive between the memorial’s steps and the Reflecting Pool. The bollards are designed to prevent explosives-carrying vehicles from reaching the memorial.

Around the other sides of the memorial, the Park Service planned to build a 30-inch-high granite security wall that also could be used for seating — a proposal that the panel approved in a separate motion yesterday. The panel also approved the Park Service’s request to partially reconfigure pedestrian crossways and traffic lanes around the memorial, including the addition of left-turn lanes for vehicles traveling from Lincoln Circle north onto 23rd Street.

Bollards have multiplied throughout the city in recent years, a trend that has attracted much public opposition and one that several members of the panel said they would like to reverse. Panel member Richard L. Friedman called the Park Service’s proposal “dull, boring and oppressive.” He and the other members told the Park Service to come back with a different proposal that limits the use of bollards in favor of more creative solutions.

“When you have six or eight or 10 bollards, they disappear,” Friedman said. “But when you have a single line that runs for a long time, it becomes a prison fence.”

Some members of the planning commission suggested that the Park Service explore regrading the bottom of the Reflecting Pool’s western end so the pool itself would become an impenetrable obstacle for vehicles approaching from the east. The Reflecting Pool’s bottom slopes upward at the west end and would not impede all types of vehicles, said panel member Jose L. Galvez III.

The Park Service also sought final approval yesterday for two 34-by-34-foot concession stands to be built on the north and south sides of the memorial, facing Bacon and French drives.

Congress issued a directive last month for the agency to replace the metal concession trailers that have been used in lieu of permanent structures.

Although the panel voted unanimously to approve new concession stands in the proposed locations, it rejected the Park Service’s design. The plans called for structures similar to four smaller concession stands elsewhere on the Mall, such as those in front of the Smithsonian Castle and the Natural History Museum. But when panel members were shown drawings of the enlarged versions proposed for the Lincoln Memorial, some balked at the curvilinear peaks of the overhanging copper roofs.

Friedman said the roofline looked “very Chinese” and “very weird” and was not in keeping with the Mall’s architecture. John Parsons, a panel member and head of planning for the Park Service’s regional office, defended the design by saying it was more Victorian than Asian and fit in nicely under the nearby elm trees.

The panel ordered the Park Service to submit an alternative design.

Parsons, frustrated by the decision, said the same panel several years ago approved the design concept for the existing concession stands. When new members are appointed to the panels, he suggested, continuity is sometimes lost and agencies are forced to reconsider pending projects. He said delays could jeopardize the completion of the projects.

“The smaller the decision, the more opinions you have,” Parsons said during discussion of the roof design. “For instance, everyone has an opinion on bollards — we know that.”

© 2003 The Washington Post Company


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