The national parks are among America’s greatest treasures, protecting the country’s natural landscapes and helping to preserve its history. But as the National Park Service (NPS) enters its second century, much of its infrastructure needs repairs. Roads and bridges are crumbling, trails are run-down, historic buildings are rotting, utility systems are outdated and unsafe, and iconic memorials and monuments are deteriorating. After decades of inconsistent congressional funding, the backlog of deferred maintenance— repairs that have been put off for at least a year—is estimated at nearly $12 billion.
In 2016, there were a record 325 million visits to the more than 400 sites throughout the country that the NPS is responsible for maintaining. According to its data, visitors spent $16.9 billion in 2015 in local communities—ultimately adding $32 billion to the nation’s economy. When roads and other park infrastructure are in disrepair, however, this can lead to fewer visits, hurting nearby communities that depend on park guests for their livelihoods. Delaying upkeep can also keep visitors from fully and safely experiencing the national parks and can threaten the integrity of historic places.
Pew is working to prevent deferred maintenance from escalating and ensure that park resources are protected for generations to come. The initiative to restore America’s parks collaborates with national partner groups, as well as state and local organizations, to effect change with Congress, the administration and the NPS. Pew believes policymakers should:
- Ensure that infrastructure initiatives include provisions to address park maintenance.
- Provide dedicated annual federal funding for national park repairs.
- Enact innovative policy reforms to ensure that deferred maintenance does not escalate.
- Direct more highway funding to the maintenance of park roads, bridges, and tunnels.
- Create more opportunities for public-private collaboration and donations to support park maintenance needs.
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Straddling the North Carolina-Tennessee border, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is world-renowned forits biodiversity. More than 19,000 species share these 800 square miles of forest—the biggest concentration inan area its size in a temperate climate. Read More
America’s National Park System spans more than 400 sites and received more than 331 million visits in 2016. Supported by a complex infrastructure—including roads, sewer systems, buildings, restrooms, and trails—the park system is beginning its second century in need of rejuvenation. Read More
National Park Week is a perfect time to celebrate America’s more than 400 national park sites. Whether you love to hike in breathtaking landscapes or get close to our nation’s history, you can check out all National Park Service (NPS) sites for free April 22 and 23. Read More
Speeches & Testimony
Letter to lawmakers includes support from all 50 states
Trust Magazine: Why America's National Parks Need Help
Starved of funding, our national parks have fallen into grave disrepair over the past few decades, with a maintenance backlog that now exceeds $12 billion. The dawning of the National Park Service’s second century presents us with an urgent challenge: to rejuvenate America’s “best idea.”