Bob Franken

The National Mall, a National Disappointment

This is for all of those who fly into Reagan National Airport: How many of you have looked out the windows when the pilot announces he is banking over the famous monuments of Washington?

How many have taken pride in this view? Unfortunately, like so much of the nation’s capital, it looks better from a distance.

The visitor quickly learns, the areas surrounding these marble icons are beginning to resemble a pig sty. Thanks to the Associated Press for pointing out that the grounds and facilities have been allowed to deteriorate into embarrassing disrepair.

The sidewalks next to the beautiful Jefferson Memorial, according to the report, are “crumbling . . . sinking into the Tidal Basin.” And reflecting pools “are filled with green, smelly water.” The story says the Mall is in danger of becoming a “national disgrace.”

Another term that has probably occurred to the millions who traipse among what are supposed to be demonstrations of American pride might be ”pathetic.” How better to describe the neglect by Congress — which is supposed to pass appropriations for repairs and maintenance.

Such inattention perhaps explains why, just a few yards from the Capitol, in a pool that reflects the famous dome, ducks have died of avian botulism. The monuments that appear so pristine from afar are tarnished by neglect.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that there is some funding for upkeep. The lawns and flower beds on the Capitol grounds are carefully tended. But visitors exploring beyond those grounds are unlucky ducks.

At the Lincoln Memorial, one finds dirt where grass used to be and stagnant water in the reflecting pool, nothing like the area a score or so of years ago, before “earmarks” were earmarked for elsewhere

Nowadays the millions are allocated for projects, important and trivial, in the districts and states of all the members who have a vote. (The District of Columbia doesn’t have one, remember?)

So the National Mall gets shortchanged. Except in this case, it’s really the whole country that is cheated.

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