Ready for your national park summer vacation? Here’s a helpful gear list: tent, hiking boots, fly rod, tool belt, backhoe…
OK, you don’t need to bring your own backhoe. But it couldn’t hurt. In many of the more than 400 sites in the National Park System, potholed roads, out-of-service restrooms, shuttered historic homes, closed trails, broken HVAC systems, and electrical fire hazards are degrading the visitor experience—in large part because of shortfalls in congressional funding needed to maintain the National Park Service’s aging infrastructure. The result? A backlog of restoration projects—many in highly visited areas—with a price tag of approximately $11.3 billion.
The parks celebrate our country’s natural splendor and history, telling the stories of remarkable people and events through special places such as Native American pueblos, Gettysburg National Military Park, and the Statue of Liberty. They also play a critical role in safeguarding plants and wildlife, providing recreation to visitors, and creating economic opportunities for local communities.
These places, managed by the National Park Service for the past century, are a testament to congressional leadership in their creation and oversight in their growth. However, in the past few decades, funding for national park maintenance needs has been inconsistent and even neglectful, far from the careful stewardship of the past. Our parks have fallen into disrepair, an inappropriate tribute to the people, ideals, and lessons that led to their foundation.
This piece was originally published in The Hill. Read the full article here.