I like Canadians, and I like geese, but the flock of Canada geese that haunts our National Mall is fixing to foul the $30.7 million face-lift of one of America’s most revered national monuments, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
The paths that run along the reflecting pool are part of my regular running route. Since November 2010, as I chugged along the southern side of the pool, I’ve watched the iconic 90-year-old pool be chipped apart, carted off and constructed anew.
More than 2,000 telephone-pole-length pilings were driven into the muck down to bedrock to hold what must surely be one of the largest concrete tubs on Earth — a 5 million gallon tub. It appears to this untrained eye that over half of the 11,000 cubic yards of concrete needed for the new pool have now been poured. The swaths awaiting concrete have crook-shaped green rebar sprouting from the mud in perfect rows like a huge Victory Garden. When the concrete basin is complete, it will be 2,100 feet in length — almost six football fields — long enough for Captain C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger to land a small jet.
My concern is that when this beloved pool opens afresh this spring, a pool that has reflected some of the nation’s most important events — Marian Anderson’s concert, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Forrest Gump’s reunion with Jenny — it will be besmirched by the same flock of unkempt Canada geese that besmirched the old pool with impunity for years.
The National Park Service’s goal for the pool’s rehabilitation focuses on sustainability, and that is laudable, but there are dozens of Canada geese waiting in the wings to undermine that goal. True sustainability is not possible without a serious goose management plan for this historic site. Let’s not mess around. Canada geese flying south in the fall in V-shaped formation at 3,000 feet honking happily are romantic. Canada geese waddling along the edge of the reflecting pool, stuffed with free American grass and depositing dollops of green guano as though they own the place, are a pest.
Hazing — i.e., intimidating slightly and harassing humanely — is a common tactic to encourage geese to change behavior. The National Park Service should solicit the assistance of tourists, the World Adult Kickball Association, Washington kite-flying groups and the Segway tour companies to help haze the geese. With possible assistance from the Canadian embassy, these low-cost interventions might prompt the Canada geese to self-deport, leaving our new reflecting pool sustainably pristine.