Lincoln Memorial Pool, Other National Mall Sites Set for Stimulus Overhaul

BY jostroff  April 26, 2010 at 4:52 PM EDT

The National Mall draws more visitors each year than Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone national parks combined. Millions of people visit Washington, D.C., from all over the world to see the monuments, but in the next couple of years, they’ll see construction sites of monumental proportions as well.

The idea to refurbish three sites on the National Mall was conceived of in the 2009 economic stimulus package, and includes the seawall of the Jefferson Memorial and the District of Columbia War Memorial. The National Capital Planning Commission approved plans for the largest of these projects in early April: the 2,029-foot-long reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

(Click each image in this post for an artist’s rendering of how each area will look after renovations are finished.)

Bill Line, a National Park Service spokesman, explained that the water in the reflecting pool has remained stagnant since its completion in 1930. As a result, it is difficult to rid the water of the leaves, debris and animal waste that accumulate.

“It’s sort of a recipe with the heat, into sort of a brew that is not pleasant,” said Line.

Renovations will add a filtration system, which would draw water from the Tidal Basin and constantly circulate water. The NPS also plans to replace the “social trails” of mud and dirt alongside the pool with paved walkways.

The combined price tag for the three projects is about $57 million — roughly $30.5 million for the reflecting pool, $18 million for the sea wall and $8.5 million for the War Memorial– and will be funded entirely by stimulus money.

(Click the image to see an artist’s rendering of the overhaul.)

The NPS was awarded $750 million in stimulus funds in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, which will pay for nearly 800 projects nationwide.

The list sets forth several major goals for the NPS stimulus money:

Above all, each of these projects, according to the NPS website, aims to “generate the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time, and create lasting value for the American people.”

(Click the image to see an artist’s rendering of the overhaul.)

The first of the National Mall projects is already underway, as approximately 200 workers are repairing the Jefferson Memorial’s seawall to prevent it from sinking into the Tidal Basin.

Line said he expects that the reflecting pool project will put another 200 people to work once construction begins this fall, leaving the landmark out of commission for about two years.

Some tourists, like Philip Masturzo from Ohio, were glad to have beaten the construction crews to the site. “I think it would be a shame for other people not to see the reflecting pool,” he said.

But Line asks visitors to be patient: “When then project is done and completed, you’ll have a better product than what you had before and it’s worth the wait and worth the minor aggravation of the construction,” he said.

The third part of the Mall’s makeover lies just south of the reflecting pool and is obscured by trees and decay: the D.C. War Memorial, dedicated in 1931 to commemorate Washington residents who served in World War I. It is dwarfed by its better-maintained counterparts that commemorate the Vietnam and Korean wars, along with the World War II Memorial. NPS plans to expand the little landmark into a stage where military, high school and college bands from across the United States can perform.

To learn more about where stimulus funds are going, visit recovery.gov and ProPublica’s Eye on the Stimulus site. For more on the history of the U.S. National Parks, check out the PBS series by Ken Burns. Artist renderings courtesy of the National Capital Planning Commission.