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Deferred Maintenance Costs for National Parks Nears $12 Billion

28 Feb, 2020

By: Michael Popke

From Washington, D.C., to Alaska, deferred maintenance projects to the tune of almost $12 billion are taking their toll on national parks.

“Increased visits combined with the aging of facilities and inconsistent funding have made it difficult for [the National Park Service] to keep up with needed repairs,” Marcia Argust, project director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Restore America’s Parks effort, wrote in a recent piece on Pew’s website. “Transportation-related assets (roads, bridges, tunnels and parking lots) account for half of that total ($6.2 billion). Of those transportation needs, repairs totaling $4.8 billion are categorized as high or highest priority. Last year, agency application requests for funding for ‘megaprojects’ (transportation maintenance repairs that are well above core agency funding) amounted to nearly $2 billion, far exceeding the $325 million appropriated for these projects.”

The National Park Service defines “deferred maintenance” projects as those that have been postponed for more than a year due to budget constraints. ”Addressing deferred maintenance is a critical focus area of our core mission to preserve parks and provide a world-class visitor experience,” the NPS website proclaims.

But the delay is limiting or eliminating access to historic sites, wildlife viewing areas, campgrounds and hiking trails, according to Argust: “This could hurt the local jurisdictions that depend on park visitors: In 2018, tourists spent more than $20 billion in gateway communities, supporting more than 329,000 jobs and generating more than $40 billion in economic output.”

As Nexstar Media Group reports, “[a]t the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., just steps away from the Thomas Jefferson and MLK memorials, the sea wall is 80 years old and floods onto the walkway a few times a day. It’s a $64 million fix.”

And, according to Pew, Alaska’s Denali National Park — home of the highest peak in North America at 20,308 feet and where thousands of visitors use the 92-mile Denali Park Road every year — needs more than $30 million in transportation-related repairs.

The bipartisan “Restore America’s Parks and Public Lands Act,” which would establish the National Park Service and Public Lands Restoration Fund, passed out of a House committee last year and aims to provide dedicated funding of nearly $6.5 billion over five years to address the most important repairs. “It’s a unifying cause for the country,” U.S. Rep. David Price (D-NC) said.


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