Mall me­mo­rial spon­sors face mon­u­men­tal land crunch

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY VALERIE RICHARD­SON

Move over, Abra­ham, Martin and Tom: More memo­ri­als are seek­ing space on and near the Na­tional Mall as their spon­sors seek to en­sure that hon­or­ing the past never gets old.

The lat­est project vy­ing for turf in the coun­try’s most ex­clu­sive real estate dis­trict is the Global War on Ter­ror Me­mo­rial, which got off to a fast start last week with a $1 mil­lion do­na­tion from NewDay USA to­ward a goal of rais­ing $40 mil­lion to $50 mil­lion in seven years.

“We did it be­cause it’s crit­i­cally im­por­tant that we rec­og­nize those who have served and those who have made the sac­ri­fice — many the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice — to main­tain the free­doms and val­ues we cher­ish in this coun­try,” said Thomas C. Lynch, a re­tired rear ad­mi­ral and ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of NewDay, a mort­gage lend­ing com­pany for vet­er­ans.

Other high-vis­i­bil­ity projects in the pipe­line in­clude those com­mem­o­rat­ing former Pres­i­dents John Adams and Dwight D. Eisen­hower, the dough­boys of World War I, the Peace Corps and those who fought in Op­er­a­tion Desert Storm against Iraq.

Can you ever have too many mon­u­ments? Congress thought so when it passed the 1986 Com­mem­o­ra­tive Works Act, es­tab­lish­ing rules aimed at curb­ing me­mo­rial creep, then amended it in 2003 to block ad­di­tional struc­tures from the grassy axis cen­tered on the Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment, known as the Re­serve.

“What ev­ery­one knows as ‘the Mall’ is part of the Re­serve,” said Glenn DeMarr, Na­tional Park Ser­vice project man­ager.

Ex­cep­tions were made for two projects al­ready un­der­way: the Martin Luther King Jr. Me­mo­rial, which was com­pleted in 2011, and the Viet­nam Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial Vis­i­tors Cen­ter, which is await­ing con­struc­tion.

De­spite con­cerns that the el­e­gant Mall area will be­come “clut­tered with com­mem­o­ra­tive bric-a-brac,” as colum­nist Ge­orge F. Will put it, tourists aren’t com­plain­ing.

The mon­u­ments con­tinue to be huge draws. The Lin­coln Me­mo­rial at­tracted 7.9 mil­lion vis­i­tors in 2016, sur­pass­ing even the peren­nial fa­vorite Na­tional Air and Space Mu­seum, fol­lowed by the Viet­nam Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial, with 5.3 mil­lion, and the Na­tional World War II Me­mo­rial, with 4.8 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Park Ser­vice.

Of the ma­jor new projects, the fur­thest along is the Dwight D. Eisen­hower Me­mo­rial, an am­bi­tious 4-acre trib­ute at the base of Capi­tol Hill that is ex­pected to break ground be­fore the end of the year af­ter 18 years of plan­ning, fundrais­ing, per­mit­ting and bat­tles over de­sign.

The me­mo­rial is be­ing built on a park be­tween the Na­tional Air and Space Mu­seum, Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment, Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment, all of which have sig­nif­i­cance for the former pres­i­dent.

“We’re in the fi­nal throes,” said Chris Kel­ley Cimko, spokes­woman for the Eisen­hower Me­mo­rial Com­mis­sion.

The global war on ter­ror­ism may be the new­est cam­paign, but in some ways that’s an ad­van­tage. It’s eas­ier to raise money and in­ter­est for memo­ri­als that still res­onate with Amer­i­cans, said An­drew J. Bren­nan, founder and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Global War on Ter­ror Me­mo­rial Foun­da­tion.

“That is one of the rea­sons the World War I Me­mo­rial is hav­ing trou­ble rais­ing the money, be­cause even though it’s been ap­proved, the fun­ders say, ‘We rec­og­nize what was done in that gen­er­a­tion and what they did on be­half of the coun­try,’ but there is lit­er­ally no one alive who can speak to the oral his­tory and be con­nected to the me­mo­rial,” said Mr. Bren­nan.

A ‘de­cid­edly dif­fer­ent’ war

Un­der the law, plan­ning for war memo­ri­als can­not be­gin un­til 10 years af­ter the end of the con­flict, but Congress sus­pended the re­quire­ment for the war on ter­ror, sparked by the 9/11 at­tacks in 2001 but with no end in sight. The amor­phous na­ture of the ter­ror­ism strug­gle, span­ning bat­tle­fields around the world and fought as much through covert ac­tion and spe­cial op­er­a­tions, also proved chal­lenge for me­mo­rial back­ers.

Rep. Tom McClin­tock, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, said in a July 28 floor speech on be­half of the me­mo­rial that the war, al­ready the long­est con­flict in U.S. his­tory, “has been fought in a de­cid­edly dif­fer­ent way than our past wars.”

“We should re­mem­ber that many of our na­tion’s he­roes from World War II never lived to see the com­ple­tion of the World War II Me­mo­rial — which was com­pleted 59 years af­ter the end of that con­flict,” Mr. McClin­tock said.

Win­ning con­gres­sional ap­proval is only the first step. Foun­da­tions spend years and even decades rais­ing pri­vate do­na­tions for the memo­ri­als, se­lect­ing de­signs and work­ing with the Na­tional Park Ser­vice, Na­tional Cap­i­tal Me­mo­rial Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion and Com­mis­sion of Fine Arts.

The leg­is­la­tion gives foun­da­tions seven years to com­plete the process, but they can and of­ten do ap­ply for ex­ten­sions. The Adams Foun­da­tion has been rais­ing money for a me­mo­rial to the na­tion’s second pres­i­dent since 2001. Plan­ning for the Eisen­hower project be­gan in 1999.

The Re­serve may be off lim­its, but that doesn’t mean new memo­ri­als can’t be neigh­bors. The Peace Corps com­mem­o­ra­tive work is slated for a park less than two blocks from the Na­tional Mall ad­ja­cent to First Street, C Street and Louisiana Av­enue.

It’s still early, but Mr. Bren­nan has his eye on sev­eral plots, in­clud­ing one just north of the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial within Area 1, lo­cated on the pe­riph­ery of the Re­serve. a

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