News & Politics

National Park Service Prepares to Close Mall and Monuments

With a government shutdown more likely than ever, there's not much time left to visit some of Washington's biggest landmarks.

Photograph by Flickr user Tim Evanson.
Now that the Senate has rejected the latest attempt by House Republicans to cut funding for President Obama’s health care law, the federal government is chugging as rapidly as ever toward a shutdown, meaning government agencies must start preparing to shutter their operations.
For the National Park Service, that means getting ready to throw barricades around the Mall monuments and put up signs at parks throughout the District warning people to stay out. If the government indeed closes at midnight, people trying to visit the monuments tomorrow will find themselves shut out. The Lincoln, Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin D. Roosevelt, World War II, Korean War Veterans, and Vietnam Veterans memorials will all be closed. Legally, so would the entire Mall, though NPS doesn’t have enough barricades to mark off the entire expanse.
Still, the effect on tourism will be immediate, says NPS spokeswoman Carol B. Johnson.  In addition to the Mall and the monuments, people would also be cut off from the Tidal Basin and Hains Point. Madison and Jefferson Drs. will be closed, too, though other streets around the Mall will remain open to traffic.
And even on a fall weekday, there is still a lot of tourist traffic that comes to the Mall. Johnson says the Mall gets about 1,200 busloads averaging 50 passengers a day. The Mall sees about 25 million total visitors every year.
A shutdown also means that 330 NPS employees assigned to the Mall will be forced out of work. Only three people—a deputy superintendent, a facilities supervisor, and a construction manager—will stay on, says Johnson, who will be furloughed herself.
Repair work on the Washington Monument, half of which is covered by a donation from Carlyle Group co-founder David M. Rubenstein, will not be affected.
Other NPS-managed parks and fountains throughout the District will also close, including tiny plots like Dupont Circle or Logan Circle. (The surrounding roadways will be open, but the islands at the center of the traffic circles will have signs posted informing people they are technically closed.) Meridian Hill Park, in Northwest DC, will be barricaded, and Rock Creek Park will be gated off.
But even if you can’t run through Rock Creek Park, you can still listen to “Rock Creek Park.”

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.