Despite a decade-long ban on fireworks at Mount Rushmore on environmental and public health grounds, President Trump is planning a fireworks show at the famous site on July 3. Critics are worried about the threat of wildfire and the spread of coronavirus.
The National Park Service halted fireworks displays at Mount Rushmore in 2010 to avoid wildfires accelerated by drought conditions. The monument is famous for its four presidential faces — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln — but also includes 1,200 acres of forest and is close to Black Hills National Forest’s Black Elk Wilderness.
With a high temperature of 80 degrees predicted for the Fourth of July weekend paired with moderate drought conditions, not everybody is cheering for fireworks. “It’s a bad idea based on the wildland fire risk, the impact to the water quality of the memorial, the fact that it is going to occur during a pandemic without social distancing guidelines and the emergency evacuation issues,” Cheryl Schreier, who was superintendent at Mount Rushmore National Park from 2010-2019, told The Washington Post.
Trump has yearned to see fireworks over Mount Rushmore for years and has downplayed the wildfire risk. “What can burn? It’s stone,” he said in January, according to Popular Mechanics.
The 7,500 people who won tickets to the event in an online lottery will be urged to wear face coverings if they’re unable to social distance. South Dakota has so far escaped the worst of coronavirus. According to CDC statistics, at the time of writing this article, the state had 6,626 confirmed cases and 91 deaths.
A fireworks display over Mount Rushmore is especially symbolic at a time when protesters seeking an end to racial discrimination are tearing down monuments. Statues of Jefferson and Washington have elsewhere been removed by people decrying the former presidents as slave owners. Mount Rushmore has an especially troubled history. The Lakota Sioux hold the Black Hills sacred. Having the faces of their European conquerors immortalized on stolen stone is viewed as the ultimate desecration.
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