Expect the Washington Monument to be closed for another two years due to repair. This week, the National Park Service announced that they have finally received the funding needed to fix several elevators in dire need of repair.
According to the press release, the repairs will move forward thanks to a substantive donation made by billionaire philanthropist David Rubenstein. He has promised to contribute $2 million to $3 million needed to complete the project that has no start date. What is the reason?
A spokeswoman explained that Rubenstein’s generous gift would not cover a security screening entrance that they are planning to build during the repairs. The amount needed for the new entry will be allocated by the government, and thus far they have no clue when the money will be given.
The good news is that there is at least one member of Congress, who is pushing for the federal funds to be unblocked in the spring. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Congresswoman for the District of Columbia, said:
“I will urge Congress to include the project in its continuing resolution that will likely fund the government into next spring so that the park service can save both time and money by working on both projects at the same time.”
The Director of the National Park Service Jonathan B. Jarvis stated that he is hoping that the money will be unfrozen when Congress votes on a new budget.
If the renovations begin in late spring or early summer, Jarvis believes that the repair will be completed in 2019. Many, who had plans to visit the famous site, are frustrated by the news especially because it was previously shut down for three years after being damaged in an earthquake.
Will Shafroth, president of the National Parks Foundation, said that he is grateful for Rubenstein’s donations. After the quake, Mr. Rubenstein gave $7.5 million of the $15 million needed to repair damage to the marble-and-granite obelisk. Shafroth shared:
“It does seem like it’s a long period of time. Just know that the Park Service is moving as fast as it can.”
He went to say that he understands some people are eager for the monument to reopen. He added:
“As frustrating as it can be, they’re a federal agency. We’re talking about one of our national monuments. … A lot of people have a say in it, and it tends to grind the process a little bit slower than we’d like.”
Rubenstein explained why he is willing to donate millions to preserve these historical monuments. He said:
“The thing to do is to make the place as hospitable as possible, and as safe as possible. It’s a monument that’s going to be around for another 100, 200, 300 years, who knows how long. Obviously, like everybody, I wish it was ready tomorrow. But that’s not realistic. I want to make sure it’s done right, and if that’s what they say it takes, that’s what it takes.”
Built in 1848, the Washington Monument honors the nation’s first president George Washington and receives half of a million visitors annually.