In the words of the old saying, the grass is always greener on the other side, and now work has started to make the grass literally and actually greener just outside the grounds of the White House.
The old “greener” saying describes envy. But so far as is known, the new National Park Service lawn improvement has nothing to do with envy, real or imagined. Instead, the park service announced Monday, it is part of an effort to apply digital-age methods to the beautification and upkeep of Lafayette Square.
The aim is to achieve better care of the park, just across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, while cutting use of water and utilities, and reducing the cost of operations, said John Stanwich, the park service’s liaison to the White House.
The historic seven- acre square forms part of the view from White House windows. It includes lawns, brick walks, fountains and five imposing statues of historical figures. Tourists stream through it daily.
Washingtonians stride to and from work along its brick pathways and under its many trees. They eat lunch on its benches. It is one of the most famous squares in the entire country. Protesters and demonstrators use its prominence to enhance the impact of their statements.
Soon, the park service said, Lafayette Square (also known as President’s Park) will boast a new irrigation system, that will employ high-tech means for saving water.
It will feature intelligent sensors that adjust water supply in response to such environmental factors as evaporation rates and weather conditions like rain or freezing temperatures.
To be replaced, the park service said, is an irrigation system that has become outdated. Its pipes and sprinkler heads are broken.
In addition to enhancing the park’s lawns and gardens, the park service said, work will include improvements to storm drainage and repair of the fountains.
The project formally began May 1. The Park Service said it expects completion by year’s end.
Work will be caried out in phases, with one third of the park closed at any time.
According to the park service, the Lafayette Square upgrade is one of a number of energy efficiency and water conservation projects at national parks throughout the greater Washington region.
The projects are being carried out under a 23-year Energy Savings Performance Contract awarded in 2014 to Siemens Government Technologies, the park service said.
The contract allows conservation of water and energy with no upfront costs. Cost savings will be achieved “into the future” the park service said.
It said the Lafayette Square project is funded by savings generated through the new energy conservation measures, the park service said.
Currenrtly, a chain link fence encloses much of the northern half of the park, which faces H Street NW.
Enclosed at present are the Kosciusko and Von Steuben statues on the two H Street corners.
The equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson in the center of the park is not currently affected.