“The National Mall . . . is a nationally significant landscape,” he said. “And, as such, we shouldn’t abuse it. But we certainly can use it. It will always be America’s front yard.”
“Sometimes in the past we allowed the turf to be destroyed and then went in and repaired it,” he said. “The goal is to say, ‘Well, it’s not okay to destroy it in the first place.’ ”
The restored area of the Mall includes the three central panels of grass between Third and Seventh streets. In September 2011, the park service began digging up the panels, installing a new irrigation and drainage system, and putting the sod atop special new soil.
The sod was installed in huge 60-foot-long rolls last summer.
The congressional inaugural committee said it was not notified of the extra spending request until December, and its budget had long been set at $1.23 million.
The protective flooring in its sector was expected to cost at least $115,000, the committee said. The cost to protect the presidential sector was about $800,000, it said.
In addition to the turf restoration, a granite border panel has been installed around the panels to help with drainage and decoration. Two giant cisterns have been buried to catch and reuse runoff, and a turf manager has been hired to oversee things.
Restoration of the rest of the central Mall is planned for later, as far west as the grounds of the Washington Monument.
The challenge has always been to free the Mall for maximum public use yet preserve its beauty.
“We don’t gate it off,” McLarty, the landscape architect, said. “We don’t lock it up at night. It’s not like a private garden. . . . We have many, many events down there. Cumulatively, they have a tremendous deleterious effect on the lawn.”
But for now, said Vogel, the park superintendent, “ it looks fantastic.”