On Thursday, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) approved changes to the reflecting pool area of the National Mall. Modifications to the celebrated vista will include a fresh source of water, revitalized pedestrian walkways and, of course, increased security measures, though NCPC officials assure us the new security features will visually improve the site.
In what NCPC staff report called "a comprehensive rehabilitation," the Commission voted to approve the National Park Service (NPS) plan to upgrade the Elm Walks by repaving the walkway and adding better lighting and seating. On the immediate north and south of the reflecting pool NPS will add pavers to replace the dirt paths. A less obvious upgrade will be the water source that fills the reflecting pool, which will switch from potable (treated) drinking water to tapping the Tidal Basin. In the works is a plan to dig a trench and lay a plumbing system that will pump water from the Tidal Basin directly into the reflecting pool.
According to David Levy, Director of Urban Design and Plan Review at NCPC, this feature and the repair of leaks in the pool will result in a cleaner, "more sustainable" and less wasteful water supply. Levy says the same changes will eventually be applied to Constitution Gardens to the immediate north.
This being DC, enhanced security is also on order. But in a welcome change, NPS will use natural boundaries as entry barriers to the Lincoln Memorial, lowering the floor of the reflecting pool to create a natural barrier for crazies driving land vehicles approaching from the east. "The most brilliant part of the whole design, is that they will use the edge of the reflecting pool as part of the barrier...This is the kind of innovate security that NCPC encourages, you get increased security without impacting public space," says Levy. Unless of course a terrorist manages to obtain a DC Ducks vehicle, but odds of that are pretty low. Once the changes are in place, NPS will remove some of the protective bollards and all of the temporary planters now on the site for an overall aesthetic improvement.
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