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National Mall Construction to Affect July 4 Celebrations

Tourists walk past work underway to reconstruct the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on the National Mall in Washington, May 11, 2011.
The National Mall in Washington hosts Independence Day celebrations every July 4th. Thousands of Americans watch a fireworks show, listen to concerts and take in the sights. But this year, some of the Mall will be inaccessible to visitors.

Construction on National Mall

National Park Service information officer Carol Johnson says the approximately 25 million tourists visiting the National Mall throughout the year will notice three massive construction projects. "We've never done projects quite this big. I mean, the Lincoln Reflecting Pool is the Big Kahuna [biggest one]," she explained.

The pool has been gutted and totally rebuilt.

"Washington D.C. is on a landfill and it had started to sink," said Johnson. "It was leaking about 500,000 gallons [2 million liters] of water a week."

There's a levy project off to the side of the World War II Memorial for storm-water management.

"It's sort of been unobtrusive during the construction, so we haven't had too many complaints," stated Johnson.

Then there’s a construction project that has ripped apart four blocks of the National Mall. It's just steps away from the Capitol, which is hosting a big Independence Day concert

"The people who designed it never anticipated the use we get on it now. We have inaugurations, we have demonstrations, we have concerts, and it has compacted the soil to the point that it is actually the consistency of concrete," Johnson said.

Tips from the National Park Service to make tourists' July 4th experience on the National Mall safe and enjoyable:

  • The Mall Opens at 10:00 am
  • Bring food, water and sunscreen.
  • Do not bring weapons, alcohol or fireworks.
  • Bring the NPS map to know where to enter the grassy expanse known as the Mall.
  • Check out the World War II Memorial before it closes at 4:00 p.m.
  • Don't miss the fireworks! Display starts at 9:10 p.m.
  • The fireworks are loud. Bring ear plugs for sensitive ears.
  • For more information visit the NPS website.
Partial fencing, Independence Celebration

And while fences and an extra entrance are being added, part of the Mall will be inaccessible on Independence Day.

"The big difference this year is that people won't be able to stand from 3rd-7th [streets]," Johnson added. "But we're confident that there's enough room for everybody."

The construction may be inconvenient, but many say the final product will be worth the wait.

"Well, it's a bit little difficult to get around, but otherwise, it looks like they're doing a good job with it. So, hopefully it will look great when they're done and we'll get back one year when they're all finished with it," tourist Paul Brown said.

The Reflecting Pool will be finished in August, and crews will complete the other two projects by the end of the year [2012].
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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.