Restore America's Parks

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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 Roads and bridges are crumbling, trails are run-down, historic buildings are rotting, utility systems are outdated and unsafe, and iconic memorials and monuments are deteriorating.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. 

Our Work

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  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park

    Theodore Roosevelt National Park—encompassing badlands, prairie, and a historic ranch in remote western North Dakota, threaded together by the winding Little Missouri River—draws some 500,000 visitors a year to the rugged landscape that inspired the 26th president to make conservation a cornerstone of his administration. Now the park that bears his name needs an estimated $41 million... Read More

  • Denali National Park and Preserve

    Denali National Park and Preserve is one of America’s crown jewels, an extraordinary landscape by any measure. This vast wilderness, spanning 6 million acres in south-central Alaska, is one of the best places to see the “Big Five” in the American wild: moose, bears, Dall sheep, caribou, and wolves. The park also contains extraordinary ecological diversity. From low elevation... Read More

  • Yellowstone National Park

    Yellowstone is America’s first national park, established in 1872. Spanning nearly 3,500 square miles in the northwest corner of Wyoming and parts of Montana and Idaho, the park is unique for what lies below it: a volcanic hot spot.  The hundreds of hot springs and geysers at the surface, including Old Faithful, make up about half of the world’s geothermal features.... Read More

Media Contact

Monique O'Grady

Officer, Communications