WASHINGTON (AP) – What would TV’s first lady Mellie Grant do if she saw the nation’s most-visited national park falling into disrepair?
She would probably hire the best person and have it handled, said Bellamy Young, the actress better known as America’s first lady on ABC’s “Scandal.”
On Friday, Young wanted to take a closer look at the city that’s her TV home, including some long-neglected sites on the National Mall. The 44-year-old actress visited Washington for the first time since she started playing Grant on the show. She’s attending the White House correspondents’ dinner this weekend.
But first, she joined a tour with the nonprofit Trust for the National Mall, which is working to raise funds to restore the park. Young greeted visitors and stepped gingerly in heels around potholes, mud and broken sidewalks in an area called Constitution Gardens.
The once-bucolic spot was created in 1965 and includes a small memorial to the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The gardens built around a wide pool of water were overhauled in 1976 but are showing their age.
“To actually walk the paths and see the water, it’s disturbing, it’s surprising and it makes you quite sad,” Young said.
Plans call for raising private funds to replace the walking paths, add a restaurant and replace the water where fish die every year with a re-engineered pool that can host model sailboats and ice skating in the winter.
Young said many people hold a pristine view of the National Mall and its monuments from pictures but don’t realize it needs renovations. “Scandal,” which is filmed in Los Angeles, includes many quick scenes from the nation’s capital.
“Washington, the scale of it and the history of it, is just so overwhelming and palpable that you have to have someplace to go to sort of pause and absorb,” she said.
The Trust for the National Mall is working to raise $350 million to aid the National Park Service. So far the group has raised $47 million for various projects.
At a recent fundraising luncheon, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the mall needs a face lift, but it probably won’t happen without private support. Young pledged to help with the effort, and former first lady Laura Bush has joined the fundraising campaign as well.
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