Jefferson Memorial Gets Cleaned, Repaired as Part of Massive National Park Funding Effort

The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. has gotten a bit of a facelift as part of a major increase in funding for national parks.

A total of $3.8 million has been put into the cleaning and repair of the Jefferson Memorial. Crews have cleaned grime off of the memorial's white marble exterior in addition to repairing cracked stone. This procedure was done in order to prevent debris from falling onto visitors to the memorial. The project was completed in late October after months of work.

"The Jefferson Memorial certainly had had a deteriorating appearance over last several years due to the biofilm, and the cleaning has restored it to the bright white that people expect and, to be perfectly honest, Thomas Jefferson deserves," said Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Mall, which is home to the memorial.

The Jefferson Memorial is far from the only location to be given funding for repairs. Masonry grills at the New River Gorge in West Virginia were restored. Restoration projects like the ones conducted at the Jefferson Memorial and the New River Gorge are among the first to be implemented under The Great American Outdoor Act. This piece of legislature passed in 2020 allocates up to $1.6 billion towards national park maintenance each year for five years. Tribal schools are also eligible for this funding.

The first projects are smaller in scale compared to the bigger projects currently in the works. Plans are being worked to make the exterior of the Statue of Liberty's stone fort base more waterproof.

Officials at the San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico also hope to receive money to stabilize a nearby cliff so rocks can stop falling onto its recreation trail. Multiple other projects, from repairs on a close to 150-year-old masonry dam on the Potomac River to upgrades toward a building on the Grand Canyon, are also being drafted.

"The Great American Outdoors Act overall, with the amount of funding available, offers us really a once in a generation opportunity to take care of some of the large projects, the large needs, of the national park service," said Mike Caldwell, associate director of park planning, facilities and lands for the National Park Service. Caldwell added the funding will also help to address smaller projects.

Jefferson Memorial
Thanks to the Great American Outdoor Act, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. has undergone some much-neede maintenance. Pictured, the Jefferson Memorial and the back the Washington National Airport (DCA) in Arlington, Virginia seen from the Washington Monument on November 21, 2021. Photo by Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

Some of the projects planned for the next year will fix problems with infrastructure that park visitors might not immediately notice: repaving roads, repairing leaky lodge roofs and replacing outdated utilities that pose safety risks.

One such project will replace dilapidated high-voltage transmission lines and towers at Yosemite National Park. The lines constructed in the mid-1930s provide power to the entire Yosemite Valley.

Several campgrounds will see improvements, including one in the Rocky Mountains that will get new utility lines to provide consistent clean water and power as well more electric hookups and parking.

New River Gorge, where one of the first maintenance projects was completed in October, attracted about 70,000 visitors annually before being designated a national park last year. Attendance has increased with the new status, especially at Grandview, a popular place for hiking, picnics and taking in the dramatic landscape, spokeswoman Eve West said.

"It's one of the prettiest areas in the park. It's 1,400 feet from the very top down to the river so you get some phenomenal views of the park looking out from the main overlook," West said.

Masonry hearths built in the 1930s in Grandview's picnic area had deteriorated in the elements, and the grills sat mostly unused until September when crews arrived to make repairs.

Crews replaced the brick and mortar and installed new grates, said Moira Gasior, historic preservation steward at New River Gorge. Gasior worked to help obtain $280,000 in funding for the project, which included repairs to a large fireplace in a picnic shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps before World War II.

In the coming years, several other high-priority projects are slated for funding, including a new water line at the Grand Canyon that serves more than 6 million visitors and year-round residents.

Grand Canyon spokeswoman Joelle Baird said the park expects funding in fiscal year 2023 for the pipeline that has broken more than 85 times in the past 10 years, leading to costly repairs that require supplies and workers to be flown in by helicopter.

The cost to replace the line, which is decades beyond its life expectancy, easily tops $100 million, Baird said.

"It's going to be a very large undertaking but ultimately is going to have huge benefits to the infrastructure and water delivery to the entire park," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

New River Gorge Fire Pit
A repaired fire pit is shown Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, at a National Park visitor center in Grandview, W.Va. Under legislation passed by Congress in 2020, some of America's most spectacular natural settings are getting a makeover. AP Photo/John Raby