A World War II memorial being built on the National Mall has sparked protest from groups claiming that it takes up valuable space.
The National Coalition to Save Our Mall, which wants to preserve the Mall’s open space, has led the fight against construction of the memorial.
Judy Feldman, president of coalition, said the memorial, once completed, would limit pedestrian traffic on the Mall.
“Pierre L’Enfant designed the Mall as an open space to be open to everyone. That’s what it was, and that’s what we are trying to preserve,” she said.
The memorial, which has been in the works since 1993, will be composed of two massive stone arches situated to the right of the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. The arches represent lives lost in the war’s Atlantic and Pacific theaters.
“Any new man made construction proves a danger to our Mall,” Feldman said. “The World War II memorial, specifically, will be a permanent barrier between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.”
Groups including the World War II Veterans to Save the Mall and the D.C. Preservation League are also fighting construction of the memorial.
Despite the coalition’s attempts to bring legal action against the government agencies that approved the site, construction of the memorial has continued unimpeded, with a completion date set for April 2004.
John Graves, director of World War II Veterans to Save the Mall, said the memorial is in the wrong place.
“We wanted the site to be 151 yards north of where it is now,” said Graves, referring to a spot beyond the Washington Monument. “We just wanted to keep the center of the Mall sacred.”
The District has embraced the new memorial and is planning a series of cultural events for its opening.
“We hope that the Mall will bring new tourism to D.C. We’re heavily pushing and marketing the memorial,” said Rebecca Pawlowski, spokeswoman for the D.C. Tourism and Convention Center.
Several tourists said they approve of the memorial and that the veterans of what has been called America’s “greatest generation” deserve a spot on the Mall.
“We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. This is the most appropriate memorial they could make,” said John Harris of Wasington, Mo. “My father served during the Battle of the Bulge and I served during Vietnam, and I still think he had it much worse than I did.”
Michael Conley, associate executive director for the memorial, said the public has approved the memorial.
“Across the country, everyone is very supportive of the memorial,” he said, adding that “every memorial always has its opponents.”
Conley said that all groups had ample time to voice their opinions while the memorial was in its planning stages.
“We had 30 public hearings, which the National Coalition to Save Our Mall and other groups were at,” he said.