Ideas sought to improve Washington Monument grounds

MORE INFO, PLEASE: There's not much about Washington on the grounds.
MORE INFO, PLEASE: There's not much about Washington on the grounds. (Bill O'leary/the Washington Post)
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By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 2, 2010

A local group that says the Washington Monument grounds are too barren and devoid of information about George Washington is sponsoring a contest to encourage ways to improve the public space.

The National Ideas Competition for the Washington Monument Grounds, or WAMO, kicked off registration Wednesday for anyone interested in submitting an idea.

"For a long time, the people who care about the area around the monument have said the grounds are unfinished," said Ellen Goldstein, a former lobbyist and member of the WAMO steering committee, which is made up of volunteers.

The ideas for the 60-acre esplanade could encompass architecture, engineering, landscaping, history and design, Goldstein said. The competition is open to anyone 12 years and older, but she said the group's outreach is focused on middle school, high school and college students. Registration is open until Oct. 31, and all ideas must be submitted to by Dec. 18. "All submissions are electronic, and we want just enough to give the jurors enough to look at," Goldstein said. The jury will pick 25 semifinalists, each of whom will be awarded $100, and the final submissions will be put to a public vote.

The committee doesn't profess to have any sway over the various governing bodies that have jurisdiction over the Mall. Several plans to improve the appearance of the entire Mall are under study. The National Park Service, which implemented security measures around the Washington Monument after Sept. 11, 2001, and the Army Corps of Engineers are two of the public agencies with plans.

"Rather than take on the whole Mall, we thought we would ask the public for ideas, not just about design, but ideas for how you would like to see it used," Goldstein said.

The steering committee includes architect James P. Clark and Judy Scott Feldman, the president of the National Coalition to Save our Mall, an active citizen groups on the entire space.

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