Published May 08, 2009
Visitors will be able to climb into the crown of the Statue of Liberty beginning July 4, the Obama administration announced Friday.
"On July 4th, we are giving American a special gift," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a press release. "We are once again inviting the public to celebrate our great nation and the hope and opportunity it symbolizes by climbing to Lady Liberty's crown for a unique view of New York Harbor, where the forbearers of millions of American families first saw the new world."
Visitors must use a narrow 168-step double-helix spiral staircase to gain access to the crown, which will be limited to 10 people at a time, guided by a National Park Service ranger.
The crown was closed after Sept. 11, 2001, because of concerns that it has no easy exit in case of emergency.
Salazar said he based his decision on a thorough analysis of the entire structure completed last month by the National Park Service.
"We cannot eliminate all the risk of climbing to the crown, but we are taking steps to make it safer," Salazar said, adding that the steps include raising the handrails on the spiral staircase and stationing rangers throughout the statute to help visitors.
The statute will be open for the next two years until it is closed again for work aiming to improve safety and security permanently, Salazar said.
The statue, a robed woman holding a torch, has stood as a symbol of freedom and democracy. It was a gift from France delivered in 1886.
Salazar said his department will invest $25 million from President Obama's $787 billion stimulus package to stabilize the facility at Ellis Island that houses immigrants waiting for further processing and to repair 2,000 feet of the island's crumbling seawall.
"Visitors who make the pilgrimage to Ellis Island will be able to see, touch, and get a sense of that first American experience had by a mother or grandfather," Salazar said.