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Luster off Pennsylvania Avenue

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 8:06 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Pennsylvania Avenue — sometimes called “America's Main Street” — is being listed among the nation's endangered landscapes because of neglect and deferred maintenance by the National Park Service.

The grand avenue connecting the Capitol and White House is slowly falling into disrepair, the nonprofit Cultural Landscape Foundation said on Wednesday. Water fountains rarely function, benches are broken, and some trees have been removed.

In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy called for a revitalization of Pennsylvania Avenue. Improvements included the creation of small parks designed by top landscape architects, including M. Paul Friedberg and Carol Johnson. But they haven't been maintained.

“There really is this kind of very slow downward spiral that is happening,” said Charles Birnbaum, the group's founding president.

Except for part of the road that was redesigned as a pedestrian plaza in 2004 for security in front of the White House, “the lion's share of the 1.2-mile stretch hasn't been renewed,” Birnbaum said.

National Mall Superintendent Robert Vogel said in an emailed statement that the park service is working on ways to preserve and restore Pennsylvania Avenue, though he did not elaborate.

“We welcome the interest and support of the Cultural Landscape Foundation and the attention they can bring to this effort,” he said.

The Washington-based foundation, created in 1998, aims to educate people about historic landscapes through training programs, partnering with local groups and publicity for at-risk spaces. It has a track record of saving threatened landscapes by raising awareness with its annual Landslide listing.

Eleven other sites are being added to the group's Landslide 2012 list, which will be announced on Thursday at an event with New York's Central Park Conservancy. They include Los Angeles' Hannah Carter Japanese Garden; Nasher Sculpture Garden in Dallas; and New York's Jones Beach, a public beach and park designed by Robert Moses in the 1920s that continues to draw 6 million to 8 million visitors each year.

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