CBS News Sunday Morning Highlights Mall’s Decrepit State

Dear Coalition Friends:

CBS News Sunday Morning seems to have created quite a stir when it aired “Gone to Seed,” on June 29th, about the decrepit condition of the National Mall.  I heard from people across the country who went to our website––to comment.    Many were outraged by the Mall’s condition and surprised that this is the first they’ve heard or seen of the problems.  Also, over the weekend The Kansas City Star published a story — see below – covering the state of the Mall.

The CBS program mostly featured local developer Chip Akridge whose goal is to raise $500 million, through his nonprofit Trust for the National Mall.  The Trust for the National Mall, as you may know, is the official fundraising partner for the National Park Service for the Mall.  The Trust is focused on National Park Service priorities for long-deferred repair and maintenance of the Mall, and will not program or sponsor activities independently.

Sunday Morning also interviewed  DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, a long-time advocate for the Mall, who pointed out that we don’t need to wait for the $500 million to start cleaning up and fixing problems right away.   Nor, according to Norton, do we need to wait to expand the boundaries of the Mall to provide additional sites for monuments, museums, recreation and other activities.  Congresswoman Norton has proposed such an expansion in legislation (HR 3880) which she introduced in October 2007.

CBS also talked to the National Coalition to Save Our Mall, our independent citizens organization, a voice for the public at large.  As founder and chair of the Coalition, I had the opportunity to speak to the need for a long-range vision for the Mall, including Mall expansion on federal land along the Potomac waterfront, which has been a Coalition priority for some time now.

The Coalition also has long advocated a commission of prominent Americans to craft a framework plan for the Mall in its third century, providing at once, we would hope, a symbolic narrative worthy of this iconic landscape’s place in our nation’s history and in our hearts, and a pragmatic approach to preserving the best of the Mall even as it accommodates 25 million visitors each year with better circulation, more amenities, more history, and better services.  Though many have put their hope in the National Park Service, the fact is the Mall houses as well the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian museums, the Capitol grounds, and several other federal and local entities.  Only a commission that rises above this fragmented jurisdiction, we believe, can adequately plan for the Mall as a whole.