With the opening of the American Indian museum and the dedication of the World War II memorial last year, Washington’s magnificent National Mall was declared complete, a finished work of art.
There are a few loose ends, like a visitors’ center at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but nothing more needs to be, or should be, added. Unless Congress weakens, the Mall will stay as it is because the lawmakers passed a moratorium on further construction a year ago.
But being complete doesn’t make the Mall perfect. The Mall, the museum-lined park that stretches from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial on one axis and the White House to the Jefferson Memorial on the other, is a maze of jurisdictions united by no single controlling authority. One result is that various security measures, many of them not only ugly but surely needless, have been allowed to grow unchecked into a thicket of fences and barriers. The Washington Monument is all but inaccessible, and getting to the Jefferson Memorial is no picnic either.
And there is a backlog of demand for memorials _ to black Revolutionary War soldiers, to Martin Luther King, to Ronald Reagan. The list goes on. The question is not whether they should be built, but where to put them if they are.
Fortunately, the Mall has its friends, and among the best is the National Coalition to Save Our Mall. It has a simple solution: Expand the Mall. The coalition’s plan calls for linking the Mall through various rights-of-way and acquisitions to adjacent and nearby parks and other green spaces, thus enlarging the Mall space by 50 percent.
We would suggest a further step: somehow linking it to the site of the capital’s planned new baseball stadium on the Anacostia River.
To shepherd the project to completion, the coalition proposes that Congress create a latter-day successor to the 1901 McMillan Commission, the powerful planning panel largely responsible for the beautiful capital we have today. Actually, that authority could be invested in the existing National Capital Planning Commission.
Planning for an expanded Mall with sites for museums and memorials should begin soon. After all, one day we’re going to need a place for a memorial to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com)