The new National World War II Memorial will spend the Fourth of July under wraps, closed to the public because officials fear the Mall's annual fireworks display could rain hot embers on the site, injuring visitors and scarring its stone surfaces.
The memorial will close sometime early July 4, National Park Service spokesman Bill Line said. Workers will drain the pools and fountains and cover the area with fire-resistant tarpaulins, he said. It might remain closed for much of July 5, he said.
For years, fireworks have been launched from both sides of the Reflecting Pool near the site of what is now the World War II Memorial. The area that now encompasses the 7.4-acre memorial has been off-limits during the fireworks display.
Architects and designers were aware of the hazard when planning the memorial and recommended the closure and tarpaulin coverage, Line said.
July 4 is traditionally one of the busiest days of the tourist season on the Mall. This year it comes in the middle of a 100-day "America Celebrates the Greatest Generation" tribute, which features 140 World War II-themed events sponsored by more than 80 cultural institutions.
The annual Independence Day parade this year, for example, is called "A Parade Salute to America's Greatest Generation."
"Certainly the World War II Memorial is the centerpiece of the 100-day tribute," said Victoria Isley of the Washington D.C. Convention and Visitors Corp. "I think there probably are lots of people who are making plans to come to D.C. that would expect the World War II Memorial to be part of their itinerary. I think certainly some people will be disappointed."
The Park Service chose not to move the fireworks launch area because other landmarks would present similar obstacles. Line said some people suggested shooting the fireworks farther west, perhaps off of a barge in the Potomac River.
"Then do we put a tarp over the entire Lincoln Memorial?" he asked. ". . . We believe this is the best way to proceed."
The fireworks are scheduled to start at 9:10 p.m. July 4. Line said it might take workers most of July 5 -- the federal holiday because July 4 falls on a Sunday -- to prepare the site for reopening.
The memorial opened to the public in April and was dedicated on May 29.