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America’s Famous Front Lawn Gets Overhaul



Almost two kilometers of green grass stretch from the front of the U.S. Capitol building to the Washington Monument. Thousands of people walk on it every day. They also play games, have picnics, run their dogs and bike.

The activities have damaged the expanse of land known as the National Mall. Now workers are in the middle of a $45 million project to return thick, healthy grass to the area.

“This thick blade, this thick, flat blade, is tall fescue.”

That is Michael Stachowicz. He is a man who knows his grass. Stachowitz spent 20 years caring for golf courses. Now, he manages one of the best-known green spaces in the world.

“It is really cool to work on a piece of property that so many people around the world can relate to.”

More than twenty-five million people visit the Mall each year for concerts, festivals and rallies, and, of course, to visit its popular museums. Over the years all those feet have compressed the soil to the density of brick. Only weeds can succeed in the rock-hard soil.

The whole Mall is in a very poor condition. But the repair project is rebuilding it, from the ground up. The old soil will be replaced with new soil like you’d find under a professional baseball field.

The workers are even improving the grass itself. University researchers are helping to find the highest quality grasses for the space.

“It being the most heavily trafficked piece of turf in the world, we’re trying to find the most traffic-resistant, the toughest turf that we can.”

Workers are also burying devices called cisterns that will capture nearly four million liters of rainwater. Michael Stachowicz says they will help reduce pollution during heavy storms.

Sometimes, storm waters flood waste sewers. Then that water and the waste flow directly into the Potomac River, polluting it.

The cisterns will help prevent that.

The dig of such a huge stretch of ground has been a complex effort.

“There’s at least a century’s worth of wiring, piping and tunneling underneath the Mall.”

The job of rebuilding the Mall is expected to be completed by early 2017.

Hundreds of thousands of people will again walk all over it to attend the presidential inauguration in front of the Capitol.

I’m Jim Tedder.

VOA science correspondent Steve Baragona reported this story from Washington. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

picnic n. a meal that is eaten outdoors especially during a trip away from home

manage v. to have control of; to take care of and make decisions about

yard n. an outdoor area that is next to a house and is usually covered by grass

compress – v. to press or squeeze (something) so that it is smaller or fills less space

turf n. the upper layer of ground that is made up of grass and plant roots

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