Addressing the $12 billion maintenance backlog at our National Parks

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by Peter Clerkin

The Issue:

Addressing the $12 billion maintenance backlog at our National Parks

The National Park Service (NPS) strives to preserve our national parks and give guests a world-class experience. Our national parks not only help visitors connect with and understand our nation’s unique beauty, history, and wonder, but also help grow and sustain numerous small businesses that surround the parks that provide essential services such as lodging and hospitality. Currently, there is a backlog of deferred maintenance on vital park infrastructure that will cost about $12 billion to repair. To put a dent in the maintenance backlog, the Department of Interior (DOI) proposed increasing entry fees at the seventeen most visited parks that, in some instances, more than doubled or tripled existing fees. Intense public opposition to this forced the DOI to relent, and Interior announced it would reconsider its proposed fee increases.

Common Ground:

In June of 2018, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Angus King (I-ME), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced the Restore Our Parks Act to address the maintenance backlog. The bill is a compromise between the previously introduced National Park Service Legacy Act and the National Park Restoration Act. The bipartisan bill would create the Legacy Restoration Fund to provide the NPS with funding for deferred maintenance projects. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke praised the legislation as, “…a very strong and historic bill to rebuild our national parks.” For hoteliers, the creation of a dedicated fund may stave off substantial park entry fee increases, such as those proposed by DOI last year, and resolving some of the infrastructure issues at parks may increase the number of visitors, thus bringing more support to local businesses.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)

First Elected: 2008

“The longer we wait to address the crumbling infrastructure in our national parks, the worse the problem gets. [This legislation] marks a step forward in the process of finally fixing the $12 billion maintenance backlog at our national parks.”

Sen. Angus King (I-ME)

First Elected: 2012

“This bipartisan legislation would help address this [$12 billion] backlog and ensure that parks from Acadia to Zion will remain open and available for years to come.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)

First Elected: 2010

“For more than a century, the National Park Service has been inspiring Americans to explore the natural beauty of our country. But in order to keep that work going, we need to ensure that they have the right resources to maintain our national parks. This bill will create the Legacy Restoration Fund to provide the National Park Service with funds for deferred maintenance projects.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

First Elected: 2002

“Sens. Portman and Warner deserve great credit for their leadership in developing this compromise legislation, which could do more to restore our 417 national parks than anything that has happened in the last half century. The bipartisan legislation that I developed with Senator King and other senators is now part of the Portman-Warner compromise legislation, which should have near unanimous support.”

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