Community Issues

One of Washington D.C.'s Most Iconic Sites is Threatened

Groups launch a national campaign to save the area known for its cherry trees

It's a riot of beauty this time of year, but when the cherry blossoms fade, the famed Tidal Basin on the National Mall in Washington D.C. shows wear and tear that's threatening its very existence.

The Tidal Basin is the body of water surrounded by such often-visited sights as the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the FDR Memorial. As the site of the first Japanese cherry tree planting, it's also the location most associated with Washington's Cherry Blossom Festival that takes place each spring. 100 acres in size and approximately 10 feet deep, the Tidal Basin was built in the 1800's as a way to use tides to keep the Washington Channel clean and navigable. The water is also used to fill the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting pool.

High tide floods the sidewalks around the tidal basin on a daily basis.

The years -- and tourist traffic -- have taken a toll. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, rising sea levels now flood the sidewalks around the Tidal Basin at high tide, making them impassable, and damaging the cherry tree roots. The trust says underfunding of the National Park Service maintenance budget compounds the problem, and tourists themselves don't help, straying off of marked walkways and trampling the delicate tree roots.

Years of flooding, neglect, and heavy tourist traffic have damaged some of the trees.

Here's what you can do. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is teaming with the Trust for the National Mall for a three-year campaign to Save the Tidal Basin and its cherry trees.

  • Read more about their renovations plans , which, they say, could cost $500 million.
  • Sign their petition , which they'll use to make the case to government leaders and private funders that their support is needed.
  • Donate to either of the trust organizations to support the project. Click here for the Trust for the National Mall, and here for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
  • Follow the campaign developments at #SavetheTidalBasin on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

(Images: Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation/Sam Kittner)

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