Mount Rushmore to improve avenue of flags in $14M renovation

KEYSTONE, S.D. — The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is getting a $14 million upgrade, though the carved heads of U.S. presidents won't be touched.

Maureen McGee-Ballinger is chief of interpretation and education at the popular landmark. She told the Rapid City Journal that the construction is mostly overdue maintenance work.

"I've been here six-and-a-half years, and we've asked for it every year," she said.

The largest change funded by the $14 million congressional appropriation will be a streamlined avenue of flags. The flags will be placed onto concrete structures along the walkway's sides so people in wheelchairs can more easily access plaques memorializing states, McGee-Ballinger said.

"Everyone will be able to see their states," she said. "People are very passionate about those flags."

Other upgrades in the 20-month project include removing part of the rock pergola to better reveal the terrace and installing lanterns to reduce light pollution.

Granite pavers damaged by flooding along the terrace will be replaced with decorative concrete. Americans With Disabilities Act-accessible ramps will also be improved near the parking lots.

The grand terrace just beneath the stone busts will close during the renovations, but the avenue of flags, bookstore, visitor's center and cafeteria will remain open.

The nonprofit Mount Rushmore Society is raising money in addition to the congressional funding in order to swap out dated video for the amphitheater and visitor center.