President Donald Trump is forcing through his plan to headline a fireworks show at Mount Rushmore despite concerns from experts who know the national park and its 93-year old monument very well. Those concerns include the coronavirus pandemic, threat of setting off wildfires, water contamination from fireworks chemicals, and limited access to and from the park.
“I think it’s insane to explode fireworks over flammable material and ponderosa pine vegetation,” Bill Gabbert, a former National Park Service fire management officer, told The Washington Post. Gabbert oversaw Mount Rushmore and six other national parks for three years.
Trump will get his way, fulfilling his years-long dream. 7500 tickets are being distributed by the state’s tourism department.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2019
The president and his re-election campaign team will fly to South Dakota and Montana for a four-day “high-dollar” fundraising trip, followed by Trump’s July 3 fireworks show. Tickets to the fundraising events cost between $250 and $100,000. Trump is also headlining a July 4 “Salute to America” in D.C., where he will speak on “heritage.” The event will feature military flyovers and demonstrations.
Other Mount Rushmore experts are also concerned.
“It’s a bad idea based on the wildland fire risk, the impact to the water quality of the memorial, the fact that is going to occur during a pandemic without social distancing guidelines and the emergency evacuation issues,” says Cheryl Schreier, superintendent at Mount Rushmore National Park between 2010 and 2019.
Schreier says there are “public health and safety risks, not only to the visitors but to employees.”
“Fireworks shows,” the Post notes, “had been held at the memorial between 1998 and 2009, until U.S. Geological Survey scientists determined the activities left high levels of a toxic chemical called perchlorate in drinking water used by the 3 million people who visit the memorial annually.”
Trump in January, discussing his desire to have the fireworks at the historic monument honoring four of the nation’s greatest presidents, ignored all the risks.
“What can burn? It’s stone.”