National Park Service to Present Mall Plan to the Commission of Fine Arts

Dear Coalition Friends:

With the new Administration now in place, it appears little has changed regarding the National Park Service’s approach to the public consultation process for its National Mall Plan and a new Mall signage program.

Tomorrow —  Thursday, February 19th — the Park Service will be presenting its latest version of the Mall Plan to the Commission of Fine Arts.  In addition, it will seek “concept/final” approval for a Pedestrian Guide Sign Program for the Mall.  The meeting begins at 10 a.m.  See the Commission’s draft agenda below.

Since May 2008, the last time the NPS invited public comment on its first round of planning ideas, we have been waiting.  A group of local nonprofit organizations wrote joint letters to NPS in May 2008 and again in December 2008 urging further discussion of critical maintenance issues (grass, trees, restrooms, signage) while also pointing out the need for a larger, multi-agency planning effort (Smithsonian, National Gallery of Art, DC Government, and more) that goes beyond NPS jurisdiction to include the entire Mall.

Instead of scheduling the required public consultation meetings, or responding to our comments and concerns, NPS apparently decided to move ahead on decisions without sufficient opportunity for public involvement.   The notice of tomorrow’s CFA meeting is the first we’ve heard about a Mall signage program, which we believed was supposed to be part of the Mall planning process.

This attitude, unfortunately, has characterized NPS’s attitude toward public engagement for some time.  It was articulated most directly by former NPS Associate Director John Parsons letter in his letter to The Washington Post on January 18.

The lack of transparency is not a new story.  Nor should it be a surprise to Congressional oversight committees.  Oversight hearings were held about NPS’s National Mall Plan efforts in April 2005 (Senate Energy, Subcommittee on National Parks) and May 2008 (House Resources, Subcommittee on National Parks).  Once again, we may have to raise our voice: The public, including groups following closely the fate of the National Mall, deserves the chance to be heard.


Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
19 February 2009
10:00 A.M. CONVENE, Suite 312, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001-
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 19/FEB/09- , National Mall and Memorial Parks. Draft Master Plan. Information Presentation.
2. CFA 19/FEB/09- , National Mall and Memorial Parks. Pedestrian Guide Sign Program. Designs for two new sign types. Concept/Final.


For more information, contact Coalition vice chair Kent Cooper at 202-338-3442.