National Park Maintenance Needs Take Center Stage

PBS show shines spotlight on neglected repairs at major sites

Park Maintenance Needs Take Center Stage
National park maintenance
© "This American Land"

The beauty, history, and stories behind America’s national parks leave many visitors in awe. Unfortunately, the curb appeal of the parks, recreation areas, historic sites, and monuments managed by the National Park Service (NPS) often masks significant challenges.

At many NPS sites, park managers struggle to keep up with long fix-it lists. Postponed repairs have grown into a maintenance backlog that is estimated at $11.3 billion. Deferred maintenance—repairs that have been put off for a year or longer—is threatening preservation of our history, impairing visitor access, and, if left unaddressed, could even compromise safety.

With support from The Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign to restore America’s parks, the public television newsmagazine “This American Land” visited three NPS sites to look at the impacts of deferred maintenance. The show airs on PBS stations across the country.

You can watch the eight-minute episode here (the first segment of the show) or click on the videos below for segments on each of the three iconic sites. 

1min 21sec

Tap water for the millions of people who visit the Grand Canyon’s South Rim annually comes through a single pipeline that often breaks, sometimes requiring difficult and costly repairs via helicopter.

1min 8sec

Some of the memorials, and the infrastructure surrounding them, on the National Mall in Washington are crumbling because the NPS lacks the funds for repairs.

1min 21sec

 The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, which includes the home where the civil rights leader lived until he was 12 and the church where he co-pastored, faces numerous deferred maintenance needs, one of which forced the park to close his birth home for several months in 2016.

If you enjoyed these stories, please take a look at another “This American Land” episode that explores three successful public-private partnerships that are helping to address deferred maintenance at popular NPS sites.

Marcia Argust directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign to restore America’s parks.

National Park Service
National Park Service
Article

Job Potential in Restoring Our National Parks

Interactive map and analysis

Quick View
Article

Our national parks are American treasures. They not only preserve significant historical sites and natural resources, but they also are economic engines for local communities and states. In 2016, the centennial of the National Park Service (NPS) drew record crowds: 331 million visits. These visitors spent more than $18 billion in communities adjacent to parks, which in turn supported 318,150 jobs and nearly $35 billion in national economic output.

America’s National Parks: Upkeep Required
Podcast

U.S. National Parks: Upkeep Required

Episode 4

Quick View
Podcast

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.

Case Studies
19x9 placeholder

Repairs needed at our nation's treasures

Read More
Quick View

Repairs needed at our nation's treasures

Read More