It has been seven years since Georgetown resident Randolph Roffman came up with the idea to transform a trash-strewn lot at a busy M Street intersection into a national monument to honor the author of the national anthem.

Since then, members of the Francis Scott Key Park Foundation Inc., a core group of 17 Georgetowners, have plowed through reams of government red tape to secure the rights to the one-acre plot between 34th and M streets NW.

They also have devoted countless hours to clearing debris from the property, and in 1986, even persuaded Congress to authorize their foundation to build the memorial.

Then the project got as stalled as traffic on M Street.

Today, homeless people still sleep on flattened cardboard boxes on the portion of park nearest the C&O Canal.

Beer cans, empty corn chip bags and other trash litter the neglected canal side of the property, which has become overgrown with grass and brush.

A bronze bust of Key by D.C. sculptor Betty Mailhouse Dunston specially designed as a centerpiece for the memorial is temporarily on display at the George Town Club.

And although every day, a foundation member raises and lowers a faded Old Glory on the site as if a memorial were already there, the original goal of completing it by next year seems trapped by inertia.

"I think we've made some very good progress," Roffman said. But "I think we are somewhat bogged down at the moment with our fund-raising effort."

"It's just an energy and manpower problem," foundation President Jonda MacFarlane said in an interview last week. "We are as far as we can go right now until we get all the money collected."

So far the foundation has raised about $500,000 through black-tie fund-raisers and other glittering social events.

But the group still needs $800,000 to plant the magnolias and shrubs and 12,000 lilies, install the needed irrigation, lighting and historic signage and construct an elaborate circular arbor as planned, members said.

Key, a Washington lawyer, lived just north of the site at 3518 M St. NW in a red brick, two-story house. It was from there that in 1814 he set out to try to secure the release of an elderly physician who had been captured by the British during the War of 1812.

During his mission, the British detained him aboard a ship until after the assault on Fort McHenry was completed.

It was from the deck of that ship that he penned much of the poem that later became the national anthem, according to historical accounts.

His home remained a fixture in the District until the 1940s, when, under the direction of the National Park Service, it was dismantled to make room for the Whitehurst Freeway.

The plan was to eventually reconstruct the house elsewhere but the pieces were somehow lost. Theories abound, but no one seems to know exactly who took the bricks and wood that had been set aside for reconstruction.

Foundation members say the site at the mouth of Key Bridge is a fitting place to honor Key and provide an impressive gateway to the District.

"If there's going to be a memorial, it should be near his {home} site," said Norman L. Larsen, manager of the George Town Club and a former president of the Francis Scott Key Park foundation. "He was in his own right . . . a patriot."

"He was a model citizen in many ways. He was an attorney who was very active in the Georgetown community," MacFarlane said. "He was an active church person . . . he wrote hymns and poems. He was a strong anti-slavery advocate."

Despite widespread community support, foundation members said egos and petty politics inherent to grassroot organizations have frustrated setting a course for their efforts to finish the memorial.

Still, they remain hopeful that the memorial will be up by the end of next year as planned. Currently, officials are trying to lure a professional fund-raiser who helped raise money to refurbish the Statue of Liberty.

"They've come so far," said George C. Gerber, one of the Francis Scott Key board members who every day raises and lowers the 15-star flag that flies over the park. "It was pretty junky."