Story by Elaine Anne Watt
Photos courtesy of Trust for the National Mall
Established in 1934 with the rental of a single horse from a local stable, the U.S. Park Police Horse Mounted Unit is one of the oldest police equestrian units nationwide. The U.S. Park Police has five stables, with its Central stable serving an honored role in the guardianship of the National Mall and adjoining areas. Situated just south of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool between the Korean War Memorial and D.C. War Memorial, the Central stable facilities housing the horses and administrative offices were built as temporary quarters in preparation for the nation’s bicentennial in 1976.
Due to a number of factors, the temporary facilities have continued to operate as the primary patrol barn of the mounted patrol unit. Continuous moisture problems and associated rot, mildew, rodent infestation and poor ventilation now pose a serious health and safety concern to both the officers and their horses. Although the recent deaths of two horses were attributed to colic, unquestionably the present conditions pose inherent risks. The U.S. Park Police Horse Mounted Patrol Unit, its officers, horses and facilities have been overlooked for more than 40 years. The only viable long-term solution is to replace these structures with modern, resilient and sustainable facilities for the stabling of the horses and the needed staff offices.
The primary purpose of this unit is and always will be law enforcement and their role in the safety and conduct of everyone within their jurisdiction. With this undertaking, an opportunity exists to make this part of our national heritage accessible to the public for educational purposes and to further enrich the National Mall experience for the 36 million plus annual visitors. Currently, the stables are so unattractive and unsafe that they are kept screened from public view, and yet, locals and tourists alike are drawn to these animals whenever they are on patrol or on duty.
In an emergency or crowd scenario, it is believed that one mounted officer has the effectiveness of 10 patrol officers on the street. Their ability to see and identify the response needed is enhanced by their raised position and maneuverability. Because of the poorly designed existing facilities and the conditions to be found there, the current number of mounted police on the National Mall is less than 10. Properly designed equestrian stables will accommodate up to 20 horses that can be housed at any given time, with improved turn-out space, proper drainage, secure police staff offices and an interactive and informative educational area for visitors.
The Trust for the National Mall is tasked with garnering private support to design and deliver modern, measured and resilient solutions to preserve the historic legacy of the National Mall, its structures and to optimize the visitor experience for years to come. In partnership with the National Park Service, they “have invested more than $22 million in private support and helped advocate for an additional $130 million in Federal Funds.”
Middleburg’s own noted philanthropist, Sheila Johnson, recently joined the Board of the Trust for the National Mall, and she was immediately drawn to this project out of the ten or so initiatives that have been identified as a priority on the National Mall. “This is urgent,” she says. “We cannot let this go on a moment longer than we have to while the health and safety of our officers and these animals are at risk.” She would like to see Middleburg and our greater hunt country community be at the heart of the solution. “This is something we understand and can really make a difference in addressing.” She already has personally committed $1 Million dollars in matching funds to kick-start the campaign for the Public Private Partnership between the Trust for the National Mall and the National Park Service that will raise the $13.5 Million dollars needed for the design, approval, build-out and the establishment of a capital maintenance fund that will ensure the proper upkeep of the facilities over their expected 50 year or more life span.
Historically, many of the monuments and memorials were developed and built using private donations. The maintenance of the National Mall is under the purview of the National Park Service, which can accept private donations to fulfill these duties through non-profit partners like the Trust for the National Mall. Presently in the early stages, Ms. Johnson and the Trust are looking for partners that can contribute their financial support, ideas and relationships in furtherance of the Central stable project. A broader initiative to involve the public is planned for the near future.
We encourage all interested parties to utilize the information provided below to find out what you can do to be a part of providing a new life for an honored past. ML
To learn more about this project or pledge your support, please contact Salamander Hotels & Resorts Founder and CEO, Sheila Johnson, at 703-879-3074 or the President & CEO of the Trust for the National Mall, Catherine Townsend at 202-407-9410.