After 40 years of inhabiting a temporary horse stable on the south side of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in the heart of the District of Columbia’s National Mall, the U.S. Park Police Mounted Unit wants to rebuild the facility through the help of the Trust for the National Mall. Established in 1934, the unit moved into its current location in 1979 in anticipation for the large crowds of the Bicentennial Celebration. But that central location proved to be ideal for the mounted police to monitor the popular pedestrian area that sees 36 million visitors a year.
But the current stable, made out of wood, no longer provides the best care for the horses. Moisture problems, along with rot, mildew and poor ventilation have taken over the facility that houses roughly 10-15 horses.
“What we have out there now is very clearly a temporary facility, but it’s way past its life,” said Teresa Durkin, executive vice president and project director for the Trust for the National Mall. “They’ve just been patching up and patching up for decades now.
“The whole thing really needs to come down—be demolished and completely rebuilt,” she continued. “The stalls themselves are too small. There’s not good ventilation. There are all kinds of pest problems, and the way things are stored makes it difficult to maintain the site.”
The Trust works to improve areas of the National Mall that wouldn’t make it into the federal appropriations budget by fundraising through private philanthropy.
“Our job at the Trust is to enhance the areas of the National Mall where it’s never going to get funding anywhere else,” said Durkin. “Bringing those private dollars to the public, the public dollars and the private dollars working together to make it all work at a level of excellence that it needs to be.
“It’s one of those projects on the National Mall that have so many things that need to be repaired,” she continued. “It’s one of those projects that would likely never make it into the federal appropriations budget every year, because there are so many other things that would be prioritized—certainly the repair of the memorials over the repair of any stable. So this is one of those projects that we think is really suited to private philanthropy. It’s one of those ones that have our hearts and also our minds.”
Trust representatives hope that through raising money, they can demolish the old facility and rebuild another one at the same location with practicality, horse comfort and public experience more in the forefront as proposed by the National Mall Plan of 2010. As of right now, there is only one turnout space. The new facility would include at least four paddocks. In addition, they hope to create a public exhibit space at the facility.
“Horses are a big part of [the city’s] history,” said Durkin. “We’re really excited about the ability to interpret that now at this location—a really highly pedestrian trafficked area between the World War II [Memorial]. People who want to go to all the memorials are going to be passing by this exhibit space every single day. It’s going to be a nice diversion for them.”
Durkin also said having people see the horses at work and in their stable is a good recruiting tool for the U.S. Park Police, “who of course are themselves great ambassadors on the National Mall,” she said. “Everyone loves them and flocks to them when they’re riding around.
“It’s a better and more efficient operation to have them in this central location,” she continued. “So they’re not putting them in and out of trailers all day every day and driving around. That’s an important part of what we’re going to be able to do [is] give them a healthy and efficient facility to work out of both for the park police and the horses themselves.”