Status Update: National Park Service’s “National Mall Plan”

Dear Coalition Friends,

You may be wondering, what is the current status of the National Park Service’s “National Mall Plan”?

The National Park Service (NPS) began its planning process for the Mall Plan in fall 2006.   In February 2009 NPS made public its “Preliminary Preferred Alternative.”

Read here — public comments from five local and national nonprofit organizations that have been participating in the National Historic Preservation Act public consultation process for this plan.  These groups include the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, National Association for Olmsted Parks, National Coalition to Save Our Mall, National Parks Conservation Association, and National Trust for Historic Preservation.

A set of common themes emerged from these letters and should help guide Mall planning efforts in a constructive way:

  1. The need for a long-range comprehensive visionary plan for the National Mall, developed in partnership with all stakeholders and agencies, and extending beyond internal NPS administrative boundaries.
  2. Recognition of the L’Enfant and McMillan Plans as the blueprint for the National Mall, effectively including the White House, Lafayette Square, Capitol Grounds, as well as all land between Constitution Avenue and Independence Avenues and its iconic vistas as key parts of the Mall experience.
  3. The need for a National Historic Landmark nomination for the Mall to help create a cohesive narrative, define the boundaries and characteristics of the Mall, and formally delineate its extraordinary significance to the nation.
  4. A redesign of Union Square (at the foot of the Capitol) that derives from an articulated vision for the entire Mall, and takes into account the Capitol Grounds and parcels to the north and south of Union Square.
  5. Joint development and use of visitor amenities with the Smithsonian, National Gallery, USDA, and other organizations and agencies within the National Mall area.

Two major issues not yet being addressed by NPS but of critical importance to any National Mall plan are flooding and basic local transportation.

All parties agree that the National Mall is in dire need of refurbishment to protect the historic landscape and meet visitor expectations.  A NPS Mall Management Plan should guide much-needed repair and improvements of the Mall areas that are under NPS jurisdiction.

In developing management policies for the open space areas under its jurisdiction, NPS will need to reconcile its preference to prohibit future public events in the protected, under-tree areas of the Mall with the Smithsonian’s long-standing use of those areas for the Folklife Festival.  Earlier this month a “Dear Friend of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival” went out from the Festival, alerting volunteers that “as part of its fifty year plan, the National Park Service is attempting to introduce new regulations that would prohibit the Festival from using the shaded sections of the Mall, thereby endangering the viability of the Festival and the health and well-being of the public.”