As one of the estimated one to two million participants on the National Mall last Tuesday for the inauguration of President Barack Obama, I felt the palpable excitement and relief over this transfer of power. I look forward to a concrete expression of his vision for environmental and energy sustainability. But for the moment, as many angles of this memorable event have already been explored, I will consider the grass.
I know that comparisons of our current economic crisis to Great Depression are all the rage these days, but I couldn't help but think of the Dustbowl whenever I looked down. The crowd would chuckle every time the announcer would instruct the audience to take a seat--obviously this was directed toward distinguished guests and ticket holders, not the hordes of party-crashers who huddled elbow-to-elbow in front of about a dozen JumboTrons set up between the reflecting pool and the Washington Monument. There wasn't much grass left to sit on, but plenty of sand-colored fine dust that stuck to our coats and behinds when we chose to take a load off our feet. I guess I shouldn't complain, having been lucky enough to make it down on the Metro and find a spot before the Mall filled up, and that we were not camping out for five hours on six inches of snow like we have here in Boston!
The National Mall is maintained by the National Park Service, which has been campaigning for more support toward its restoration. The neglect and disrepair of this 700-acre property has been lamented by officials and visitors alike. It was disheartening to see so much trash and bare dirt as the crowd cleared out last Tuesday. Some of us filled a few of the trash bags that were provided, with limited impact. (The picture below doesn't accurately reflect what the ground looked like where we were stationed.) There are only 300 workers to reseed and repair the National Mall, compared to 2,000 who maintain the grounds around the Capitol. Hopefully the Parks Service will raise more more finds or have some earmarked toward a renewal that can match the political one we are experiencing.