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) celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, it faces a growing list of deferred maintenance needs: crumbling bridges, broken bathrooms, rotting buildings, eroding trails, damaged roads, deteriorating electrical systems, and breeched sewer and water lines. After decades of inconsistent congressional funding, the cost of the maintenance backlog across the more than 400 national park sites and 75,000 assets that the NPS manages is estimated at nearly $12 billion.
Deferred maintenance can keep visitors from fully and safely experiencing the national parks. Delaying upkeep can also threaten the integrity of historic places and negatively affect nearby communities that depend on park guests for their livelihoods. According to NPS data, in 2015, visitors spent $16.9 billion in local gateway regions—the communities adjacent to and within 60 miles of parks.
Pew is working to address the deferred maintenance issue and ensure that park resources are protected for generations to come. The restore America’s parks initiative collaborates with national partner groups, as well as state and local organizations, to affect change with Congress and the NPS. Pew pursues the following goals:
- Dedicated annual federal funding for national park repair needs.
- Policy reforms to ensure that deferred maintenance at NPS sites does not continue to escalate.
- Direction of more funds from the Highway Trust Fund to the upkeep and repair of national park roads and bridges.
- Expanded opportunities for public-private collaboration and donations to address park maintenance.
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