America’s National Mall has problems. Look at the lawn. There are parts of the Mall where the grass is, well, not grass at all, but rather weeds. On some of the most visited areas of the Mall you can find several types of grass and weeds growing together in a most unappealing manner.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has hired landscape professionals to show the public how the Mall should and can look by improving the grounds at and around the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The irrigation system we installed in the early years of the wall is now fully operational. While it costs $30,000, there was no alternative but to repair the system. The millions of annual visitors and our fallen heroes deserve inspiring surroundings and greenery. Right now we are also undertaking weed control, aeration, seeding and other work. This is being paid for with private funds.
The total area we are repairing exceeds 13 acres, which includes the wall, the knoll to the east, the area around the park ranger kiosk and the future site for the education center at the wall. The plan is to keep this area privately maintained in perpetuity with quality care.
We have taken the initiative many times, in large and small ways over the years, to help take care of the Memorial and the site since 1982. We have designed and installed two different lighting systems. We have inscribed names and conducted engineering studies. We even keep an insurance policy on the Memorial in the event of damage.
The National Park Service does not need people to complain about the Mall; it needs people to be involved. The fiscal situation impacting the Mall is simply that there are billions of dollars in maintenance backlogs in our National Parks. Places like Yosemite, Antietam and wilderness areas need a lot of help. Do we light a candle or curse the darkness?
The foresight and boundless energy of President Teddy Roosevelt started our National Park System over 100 years ago. It is up to each and every one of us to do our share by visiting these parks and by giving back, if we have the resources, as volunteers or contributors.
As comedian Lily Tomlin wisely said, “I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”
Jan Craig Scruggs is a Vietnam veteran and founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.