The Passing of Senator Craig Thomas

Dear Coalition Friends:

First, an update. Our May 30 update reported that the DC City Council had eliminated $500,000 in funding for the Historical Society of Washington, DC, for FY08. The Coalition sent letters to Council members urging reinstatement of funding. GOOD NEWS. On June 5, DC Council reinstated the full funding amount.

On June 4th, the National Mall lost an advocate, Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY), to leukemia. Published obituaries did not mention his role, as Chairman of the Senate Energy’s Subcommittee on National Parks (until the 2006 elections), in defending the Commemorative Works Act and authoring the moratorium intended to protect the Mall’s dwindling open space. The Chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission credits Senator Thomas in his letter in yesterday’s Washington Post, copied below.

Senator Thomas convened the April 2005 oversight hearing on the Future of the National Mall, which gave the National Coalition to Save Our Mall a place at the table. Coalition Vice President W. Kent Cooper testified, along with representatives of the National Park Service, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the Commission of Fine Arts. Kent spoke about the Coalition’s ideas: the need for Mall expansion; for an independent Mall commission to create a 21st century plan; and for a National Mall Conservancy to help coordinate among the Mall’s 6 managing agencies and the public.

While no real change came out of the hearing — the government witnesses all rejected the Coalition’s ideas and told committee members that no commission was needed, that the agencies would do the planning themselves — it was clear that our ideas were starting to make an impact. Senator Thomas and Senator Akaka, now Chairman, both spoke of the Coalition’s concept of the “Third Century Mall,” while Senator Ken Salazar said he was surprised there was as yet no National Mall Conservancy.

The Washington Post

The Mall’s Protector

Monday, June 11, 2007; A16

Our national parks and great open spaces here in Washington and across the country have lost a great friend and advocate in Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) [obituaries, June 6].

This quiet man was a stalwart supporter and protector of our nation’s capital and of the revered icons of our country as reflected in the monuments, memorials and museums on the Mall. Indeed, Mr. Thomas was the author of a 2003 amendment to the Commemorative Works Act that designated a Reserve on the Mall to protect this great space.

Generations of future residents and visitors may not recall his name as they come to the Mall to celebrate America and its history, but their personal experiences will be enriched by the senator’s tireless efforts to protect the integrity of this great public realm.

National Capital Planning Commission