Manassas Journal Messenger | Saving open space

There’s a battle being waged in a nearby jurisdiction to save open space. It has nothing to do with building houses, roads or strip malls.

This slow-growth battle is taking place along a two-mile strip of green space between the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. Yes, the Mall is in danger of being plowed up and built over with monuments, memorials and security barriers.

The Mall was designed to be the people’s park – a patch of green grass in the center of the nation’s capital between the likes of the Smithsonian, the Washington Monument and the reflecting pool of the Lincoln Memorial. In a city known for its confusing layout of bustling streets and government buildings, the Mall has offered a refreshing refuge for visitors and residents alike.

The World War II Memorial, which is under construction, was the first major project that raised concern with those trying to protect this small patch of Washington’s open space. With the dispute over the World War II memorial settled, it is time that Congress set aside the remaining portion of the Mall with a moratorium on new construction.

There are dozens of new memorials on the drawing board proposed by a number of special interest groups hoping to get their “cause” set in stone along the Mall. That’s not to say that these were not worthy causes, but there are certainly other locations worthy of hosting such memorials.

Unfortunately, Congress is no match for special interest groups and the lack of backbone on Capitol Hill might result in the construction of more memorials cluttering the Mall. Congress has already given the first of two approvals to create monuments to John Adams, Thomas Paine and Revolutionary War Patriots. Many others are still pending.

“It’s become a special interest Mall,” Judy Scott Feldman of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall, told the Associated Press. “Whenever we build on it, we’re diminishing it and its symbolic historical importance.”

Another concern is the expensive plan to build a “security center” near the Washington Monument – a project Feldman calls a sneaky way to build an overpriced visitor’s center. This center will chew up pieces of the Mall surrounding the monument in order to screen visitors. It sounds as if the terrorists are winning this battle.

The problem is that there is no shortage of groups who believe their war or cause should be enshrined on the Mall. Congressmen have a weak spot for these pleas and seem reluctant to say no.

“Congress is the biggest danger to the Mall,” Don Hawkins, with the civic group Committee of 100 on the Federal City told the AP.

The battle over the World War II Memorial is complete and it appears that the finished product will be nothing less than awe-inspiring. With the completion of this new memorial, Congress should agree to halt development of the Mall. They should also work with city planners in finding more creative places to build future memorials to insure visibility and practicality.

If this is not done, the Mall will become the Vegas Strip of national memorials. And that would serve as a memorial our own shortsightedness.

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