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Famed D.C. cherry blossoms face long-term risks from high tides

The National Park Service and nonprofits say the Tidal Basin could use up to $500 million in work

Flooding at the Tidal Basin (2018)
Bill Chizek/Shutterstock

The cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin are currently in peak bloom, but according to their caretakers at the National Park Service (NPS), the trees face long-term risks from high tides. This as well as lackluster visitor facilities and perimeter safety issues are why NPS and nonprofit organizations have kicked off a “Save the Tidal Basin” campaign to fix up the area.

“Walkways surrounding the Tidal Basin are flooded at high tide on a daily basis, making them impassible for visitors and impacting the roots of the cherry trees,” explains a press release that announced the campaign on Wednesday. “[R]epairs and improvements could cost as much as $500 million to address.” The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Trust for the National Mall are joining with NPS in the “Save the Tidal Basin” campaign.

The inlet bridge Sam Kittner/National Trust for Historic Preservation

Needed improvements include a repaired sea wall, better pedestrian circulation, and more comprehensive interpretative signs, according to the groups. The campaign will include an “Ideas Labs” backed by American Express “that will serve as a forum for generating a new vision to secure the future of the Tidal Basin,” says the release. Architectural and landscape design firms would participate in the forum and propose improvements. In turn, their ideas would “be vetted by a wide range of federal and private entities and the general public at a museum exhibition.” NPS says it would follow federal planning statutes during this process.

Visitors near the Jefferson Memorial
Sam Kittner/National Trust for Historic Preservation

Katherine Malone-France, the interim chief preservation officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a statement on Wednesday that “as part of ‘America’s front yard,’ the Tidal Basin is home to some of the most iconic landmarks and traditions in the nation’s capital. Yet current conditions do not do justice to a landscape of such significance.”

Sam Kittner/National Trust for Historic Preservation

Over the next three years, the American Express Foundation will provide a $750,000 grant to support the Ideas Lab. Officials say the Tidal Basin draws about 36 million people a year.

Tidal Basin

W Basin Dr SW, , DC