Improvements underway to get Mall back to picture-perfect

The National Mall doesn't look its best at the moment.

Thousands who are spending this holiday on the National Mall have likely noticed the 700 acre park is hardly looking it's best.

Beat-up monuments, a reflecting pool under construction and a lawn that, at times, resembles a sand lot. Time and the trodding of millions of feet have the most famous park in the country looking a little tired.

“It could stand a little improvement,” said Mark Hall, a visitor.

"If it's beautiful it should stay beautiful,” said Lakiya Harris, another tourist.

Because the green grass is gone in many spots, the Mall is dusty. Too many festivals and picnics are leaving behind hard-packed soil, so dry and cracked that the grass just won't grow.

"It's a disgrace, it shouldn't look like this,” said Caroline Cunningham, the president of the Trust for the National Mall, a non-profit that’s raising money for the Malls’ restoration.

“It's a park, that is, a 700-acre park, it was never built to handle the use that it gets,” Cunningham said. Twenty-five to 30 million people visit and walk in the park every year, she said, more than the other national parks combined.

Among the many improvements planned for the Mall are new soil, a special blend of grass and pop-up sprinklers that'll be fed by four massive underground cisterns holding a million gallons of water. There will also be new reflecting pool, benches and walkways.

But making the nation's front lawn one you'd want to picnic on no easy task, and certainly not cheap. The trust hopes to raise $700 million, with $400 million just for the upkeep.

"We can't go to Congress, they don't have the money and we don't expect them to write a blank check,” Cunningham said.

Visitor Randy Tran is hopeful. "I bet the community could come together and help out with that a lot,” he said.

Small sections of the Mall will have to be shut down during work over the next couple of years. Organizers might have to be more selective with how many events can take place.

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