Restoring Our Monuments

monumnetsOn a recent morning run around the National Mall, I took my first swing by the newly-restored Washington Monument since it had closed after an August 2011 earthquake. From afar and up close, patches show where the tower has been revitalized, resuscitated and renewed. The goal was never to restore it to its original look and condition. Nothing can ever be truly “restored” in the pure sense; I’ve sometimes wondered why the word even exists. But that was never the goal. The goal was to restore its functionality.

When President Obama first proposed the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2009 that was the goal, too. These magnificent natural monuments—shared by Canada, eight states, dozens of tribes and thousands of municipalities, and home to some 95 percent of the nation’s fresh surface water—had been crumbling ecologically. Decades of habitat loss, alien species invasions, phosphorus runoff that causes mats of harmful algae, and industrial pollution had caused extreme wear such that we needed to accelerate progress in restoring their functionality.

FACT - The Washington Monument is 555 feet tall, less than half the maximum depth of Lake Superior (1,335 feet).With its commitment to another five years of the GLRI, the Administration has proposed an Action Plan to guide investments from FY2015 through 2019. The document is out for public review. We’d love to hear your thoughts, by June 30 if possible. You can see the draft online and provide your input on it at

The Washington Monument re-opened for the public to use earlier this year, its functionality restored…for now. The reality is, we always have to restore and maintain the things we care about. Our homes. Our spirits. Our waterways.

The ultimate test is whether we will continue to take care of the things we care about so they can continue to take care of us. I’ve always been inspired by morning runs around the Monument. But for all my time in Washington, D.C., I’ve never been in it. One of these days…

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