This past week marked the 25th anniversary of the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) Renewal & Remembrance. Traditionally, this day of service is held at Arlington National Cemetery and attracts over 600 industry professionals working together to improve these important green spaces. This year, due to the pandemic, the number of volunteers permitted was greatly reduced. NALP worked with the the National Park Service to create a parallel event at the National Mall, specifically, the grounds of the Washington Monument.
Allentuck Landscaping Co. has sent our team members to this event for over 18 years. This year, a team or 11 of our staff worked shoulder to shoulder with other landscape professionals from across the country to help preserve a 1/4 grove of cherry trees.
Bruce Allentuck was asked to deliver the Dedication of Work speech during the opening ceremony. His speech, outlining the importance of the National Mall green space, follows:
My dad and mom were born here in Washington. I was too, actually just 11 blocks from here at George Washington University Hospital. It wasn’t until I was born that they moved about a half hour away to Maryland.
Growing up, every now and then on Sundays my dad and I would drive into DC to go to Tower Records. We would spend what seemed like an excruciating length of time there but dad loved his records. Our trip would end with a stop at Little Tavern in Georgetown for their greasy square hamburgers. In between, we would come here to the National Mall. We would visit Mr. Lincoln, or Mr. Jefferson, or walk the gravel paths around the Smithsonians, or watch soccer and frisbee at West Potomac Park. On occasion, we would go watch the protesters near the White House. We even took part in protests from time to time.
It was a quiet time spent with my dad. Just strolling through these areas, chatting about stuff. Some guys had fishing with their dad, we had the Mall.
I didn’t really appreciate those trips, or the time spent, until recently.
Four weeks ago, my daughter and son-in-law brought our granddaughter to visit us for the first time. She is 6 months old. On that Sunday, we ended up here. We visited Mr. Lincoln, we walked along the reflecting pool, we crossed Independence Avenue and spent time in the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, reading the passages from his speeches. It was a lovely morning. Lastly, we went over to the FDR Memorial. That was actually our objective all along. My daughter, her husband, and our granddaughter posed for a picture with the statue of Eleanor Roosevelt.
By the way, my granddaughter’s name is Ellie, short for Eleanor.
We have come full circle.
Moments like that make it no wonder that the National Mall is also referred to as America’s Lawn. It is one of the most visited landmarks in the United States. It is open to all. It is free for all. There are no barriers to entry and no barriers to experience it. There is no place like it on earth. Where else can you literally touch so much of our history in one place other than right here.
Millions of people visit these grounds each year for moments just like that. To see monuments built to honor our country’s founders and leaders, to interact with them and be inspired by their words.
Others come to pay homage to those who served for greater good. Visit the World War II Monument or the Vietnam Monument or the Korean War Memorial and watch someone who served in those wars, or the family member whose loved one served, visit it. You will never ever forget the pain, the pride, the love you see.
Still others visit the National Mall to see the treasure trove of art, culture and science in the Smithsonian museums. One cannot walk those halls without becoming a more complete person.
And then there is this landscape. This amazing, beautiful landscape. It is a lesson in how landscape architecture and proper landscape care can blend all of earth’s elements and encourage seamless human interaction with them. This landscape is used for picnics, protests, concerts, exercise or just chilling out. Two weeks ago thousands watched fireworks right here. It is a landscape for the people.
And this is where we play a part today.
Some of you will be stick aerating the lawn on the playing fields nearby, encouraging the bluegrass to spread and fill in. The long term goal is that the field’s turfgrass will become denser and safer to play on over time, that it will better withstand the foot traffic.
Most of you will be spreading wood chips under this grove of cherry trees. By virtue of their root systems growing together, they have essentially become a one quarter acre sized organism. The wood chip layer will act as the leaf litter does in a forest, facilitating the growth of beneficial fungi and micro-organisms which will improve the grove’s health over time, protecting them from mechanical damage, and insulating the root system.
The work we are doing here today matters. Today we get to play a small part in helping to care for this important piece of ground. We get to help make sure it persists for years to come, so that the National Mall looks as spectacular to our grandchildren as it did to me all those years ago.
I am certain that no one will walk by this grove of trees, or play a soccer game on the field in West Potomac Park and know that the members of the National Association of Landscape Professionals enhanced their experience, but that is ok.
We do not serve, whether it is at Arlington National Cemetery or here on the National Mall to receive gratitude or to be recognized. We do it because that is who we are as an association, as an industry, and as individuals. That is who we are. I am truly proud to be a part of an industry of people who selflessly give back to their communities so freely.
This is the 25th Renewal & Remembrance event. 25 years! A quarter of a century!
If you are like me and have been to this event before, it becomes one of the highlights of the year. It is an opportunity to see old friends, make new ones, and work shoulder to shoulder with like minded peers.
The last year and a half has been so difficult for so many people on so many levels. For me, one of the big holes was not attending Renewal & Remembrance, at least not the way it has been.
What started out as a small group of lawn care people wanting to do good, has evolved into an event that takes an entire year to plan. Two years ago, almost 700 people attended Renewal & Remembrance. Last year, due to the pandemic, we were allowed to have 10 people present at Arlington. We planted a tree to commemorate our event. It was meaningful and we were able to keep our tradition alive.
This year, we are allowed to have a larger number of people at Arlington, but we knew that more of our colleagues would want to attend Renewal & Remembrance. Thankfully, the National Park Service and the Foundation for the National Mall were open to hosting us here.
I am excited that we were able to add this iconic landscape to our day of service, and know it will create a new meaningful experience for our members. To work among our national monuments is an amazing opportunity. I encourage each of you, as we move forward in a few moments to our work, to stop at some point and look around. Take in your surroundings. Very few people get to say “I contributed to the beauty of the National Mall”.
Thank you for being here. Have a wonderful day! Now let's go make some memories.