Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
National Mall gets a $10M boost
BY BRETT ZONGKER, Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Plans to overhaul neglected sites on Washington's National Mall with lakeside gardens, grassy amphitheaters and restaurants with views of the nation's memorials are getting a boost from a German carmaker.
Volkswagen of America announced a $10 million gift Thursday to the nonprofit Trust for the National Mall to jump-start fundraising for the park. It's the largest private gift to date to restore the most-visited national park.
The National Mall sees more visitors each year than Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone combined. But its more than 1,000 acres of parkland and memorials weren't designed to handle 25 million visitors a year.
The mall is a two-mile expanse that runs from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. It was designed by Pierre L'Enfant in 1791 to be the central axis of a national capital when Washington was still a swampland and had not yet taken shape.
Now visitors often come upon cracked sidewalks, dead grass and fetid pools of water. Government funding to maintain the mall has lagged, though economic stimulus funding did pay for some improvements.
Volkswagen of America CEO Jonathan Browning said he was shocked to see such poor conditions around the Jefferson Memorial, where a sinking sea wall around the Tidal Basin has allowed regular flooding. He told The Associated Press that Washington's monuments look great from afar but that it's a different story on the ground.
"You get up close and you see the wrinkles and the cracks and you think, this needs some tender loving care," he said.
Volkswagen moved its U.S. headquarters to the Washington suburbs of northern Virginia in 2008. It will not receive any naming rights to spaces on the mall but eventually will be recognized with other donors in a restored historic building in the park.