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 Roads and bridges are crumbling, trails are run-down, historic buildings are rotting, utility systems are outdated and unsafe, and iconic memorials and monuments are deteriorating.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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In 2011, viewers of ABC’s “Good Morning America” chose Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as the “Most Beautiful Place in America.”1 This spectacular 35-mile stretch along Lake Michigan’s eastern coast is best known for its pristine beaches and steep sand dunes and bluffs formed by retreating glaciers. It also has more than two dozen small lakes as well as... Read More
Marcia Argust, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign to restore America’s national parks, testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 21. She encouraged committee members to address deferred maintenance challenges facing the National Park Service. Read More
From the world’s oldest tree species to the southernmost glacier in the Northern Hemisphere, Great Basin National Park encompasses extremes. This is reflected in the ecological diversity visitors experience on its trails. In the mile of elevation separating the park’s lowest and highest trails, hikers will encounter both desert and alpine lakes. The superlatives don’t stop when... Read More