Norton Calls for Closure of Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials During the Coronavirus

Apr 7, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today sent a letter to the Acting Director of the National Park Service (NPS), David Vela, requesting the closure of the chambers of the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials after reports that crowds had been forming at the sites over the weekend. Norton said her letter was motivated by concern for the safety of the general public and NPS employees during the coronavirus.

“Federal agencies must do their part to flatten the curve,” Norton said. “Given the crowds that continue to gather in the chambers of both the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, it is no longer in the best interest of the community for these memorials to remain open. I am calling on Acting Director Vela to restrict access to the public until the coronavirus is over.”

Norton had previously sent a letter to Acting Director Vela asking for answers on measures NPS is taking to protect the safety of U.S. Park Police, who are tasked with protecting these memorials.

The letter follows.

 

David Vela
Acting Director
National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

 

Dear Acting Director Vela:
 

I write to request that the National Park Service (NPS) close the chambers of the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials on the National Mall to the public during the coronavirus. I have received reports that the chambers have been crowded, particularly on weekends, making social distancing difficult if not impossible. Closure would protect the public and NPS employees, including U.S. Park Police officers. Federal agencies need to lead by example and do everything possible to flatten the curve. 

Closure the chambers would be consistent with other closures by NPS to protect public safety. NPS has already closed most of its indoor property, like visitor centers and the Washington Monument, to the public. Events like the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival have also been canceled to avoid attracting large groups of people. Closure also would protect public safety. The U.S Park Police protect these sites, and it is my understanding that the force is so small that a handful of officers getting sick could interfere with its ability to carry out its responsibilities.

 

I ask for a response to this letter in writing within five days.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Eleanor Holmes Norton