I recently visited some of our most iconic sites in Washington, DC, among them the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial. My guide was the National Park Service National Mall and Memorial Parks (NAMA) Chief of Maintenance, Sean Kennealy. While it was fascinating to explore the grounds under the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial, his explanation of the restoration of the Lincoln Reflecting Pool was the most interesting part of the visit.
The pool has been featured prominently in the headlines - first for being reopened in August, and most recently for an algae problem that made it less reflective. The pool was closed in 2010 for a $34 million renovation - the largest NPS American Recovery Act project - that was completed in August 2012.
The pool first opened in 1923, shortly after the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial before an audience that included Lincoln's son, Robert, age 78. It was used for ice-skating in winter and toy boat regattas in summer and was the backdrop for many events, both fictional (Night at the Museum 2, anyone?) and non-fictional, such as peace demonstrations and Fourth of July fireworks.
Kennealy explained that the original pool was built on marshy ground, and, by 2010, the water was unsafe for the public and the pool was leaking about 500,000 gallons of city water per week. Although the water was replaced continuously, the pool still had to be cleaned several times a year.
Today the pool is less than three feet deep and uses water from the Potomac instead of city water. The water is filtered through circulating pumps in a nearby pump building, which uses ozone (rather than dangerous chemicals) as a disinfecting method. Specially tinted concrete was poured into the bottom of the pool to make it more reflective.
Finally, the former grass paths on either side of the pool have been replaced with paved walking paths. If you find yourself in Washington, DC, stop by this treasured asset to see how the NPS not only improved the look of the pool but also incorporated sustainable practices.