President Donald Trump today is living the dream. Actually, living a dream he’s had for at least two years: to preside over fireworks at Mt. Rushmore, the iconic 93-year-old national monument to four of America’s greatest presidents.
The first item on the President’s White House schedule is a 4:45 PM ET departure for what will be more than four hours of travel via Marine One, Air Force One, and presumably some form of government ground transportation to the the Black Hills of Keystone, South Dakota, the home of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The First Lady is expected to accompany the President.
The fireworks celebration begins at 8:10 PM Mountain Time, 10:10 PM ET.
At 9:50 MT the President and First Lady will begin their trip back to Washington D.C. They are scheduled to arrive at the White House at 4:25 AM ET.
Environmental experts and former officials who oversaw Mt. Rushmore, a U.S. National Park, have cautioned against holding fireworks in July, citing concerns over brush fires and contamination of drinking water.
“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.
Cheryl Schreier, superintendent at Mount Rushmore National Park between 2010 and 2019, told the Post 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.”
7500 tickets were reportedly given out.
“Fireworks shows,” the Post’s report also noted, “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.”