National Mall Showing Its Age

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national mall
CBS

Each Fourth of July, the National Mall sparkles like a jewel.

But by day it's clear, the nation's front yard - as it is known - is in need of some serious yard work, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes.

There's crumbling sidewalks, stained marble. Even the reflecting pool, that Civil Rights and cultural touchstone, is a sad, soupy algae-filled mess.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Stephen Lorenzetti of the National Park Service.

Lorenzetti said the Mall is overdue for about F $400 million worth of maintenance, including $18 million to shore up the rapidly sinking seawall that fronts the Jefferson Memorial.

Congress made a dent in that repair bill when it approved $56 million for Mall maintenance in the stimulus bill. Part of a larger $750 million outlay of stimulus funds for the entire national park system which the interior department claims will help create or retain 30,000 jobs.

"That was criteria number one. Which of the projects that we currently have of our entire list for the national parks that are going to put back to work," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "This project here will put people back to work."

But those who opposed the stimulus package are particularly bugged by the seed money for the mall.

"You know what? It's not an emergency," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Republican from Texas.

Hensarling lobbied successfully to strip the stimulus of the Mall cleanup funds, only to see the money get put back in at the last minute.

"This grass does look pretty bad," Cordes told Hensarling.

"Oh, I don't deny, I would like more grass on the Mall," Hensarling said. "But again I don't want to borrow money from the Chinese, send the bill to my children and my grandchildren to help pay for it."

The administration defends the funds as an investment in the local economy - 25 million tourists visit the National Mall every year. That's more than the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite combined.

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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.