National Mall renovations mean changes for festivals

(WJLA) - If you haven’t seen America’s front yard lately, you’re in for a surprise. Part of the National Mall has had a facelift, and overall, a $40 million renovation.

But with new turf comes new rules, as this area has temporary red flags and signs that say it is closed. And when it reopens, users will be expected to take a gentler, kinder approach.

The biggest changes will be for festivals. Jennifer Gavin heads up the National Book Festival, and says that having to put down mats to protect the grass, along with weight and time restrictions on tents, her group decided to go to the D.C. Convention Center this year instead – after a decade on the Mall.

"There would have been intense labor. When we assessed the overall cost, it would be more than a million dollars," says Gavin.

This year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival is being held on the portion of the Mall that is not yet renovated – but organizers say the future means regrouping.

"Most of our tents will be on hard scape...on walkways...and there will be more costs to us...but we all agreed the Mall needs to look beautiful...and the festival needs to stay on the mall," says Michael Mason.

A spokesperson for the National Park Service told ABC7:

"The new operating and maintenance procedures are designed to protect the cultural landscape, the investment of taxpayers, and to make the Mall available to all groups year round."

But it is leaving tourists a bit conflicted, as some think it will result in a nicer looking Mall, while others think the allure of the Mall is that visitors rarely have restrictions.

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