National Parks, Popular for Weddings, Aren’t Feeling the Love

To honor Valentine’s Day Congress should fund overdue repairs across park system

National Parks, Popular for Weddings, Aren’t Feeling the Love
Parks
A couple poses for a wedding photo atop Arrow Spire in Grand Canyon National Park.
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According to Brides magazine, a recent survey found that 36 percent of couples get engaged December through March. That’s up from 33 percent from 2017, and as that window creeps to a close for 2019, plenty of couples are looking for places to tie the knot. For some, romantic settings in America’s national parks will be on the short list.

That’s just one more reason that Congress should pass legislation to fund the long list of overdue repairs at National Park Service (NPS) sites, a maintenance backlog that stands at around $12 billion. Funding needed repairs—which range from crumbling roads, trails, and buildings to failing water and sewer lines and hazardous electrical systems—will help ensure the parks are safe and accessible for all visitors, including couples tying the knot and their guests.

Through sickness and health, the NPS has held together for 102 years. Now, however, the national parks need some TLC to return them to tip-top shape for the hundreds of millions of visitors expected in the coming years.

And, as with many modern weddings, the price tag for addressing the NPS maintenance backlog is eye popping.

Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland, a popular wedding site due to its tree-shrouded outdoor chapel, faces $12.9 million in deferred maintenance, with $4.7 million of that needed for repair of paved roads.

Parks
Shoshone Point is just one of more than a dozen places engaged couples can choose to tie the knot in Grand Canyon National Park.
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Grand Canyon National Park is essentially an immense natural cathedral, with innumerable ideal spots for saying “I do.” But even with their hearts aflutter couples might think twice about holding their ceremony in a park with $329 million in needed repairs, including leaks in the 16-mile trans-canyon pipeline that supplies the only potable water to the South Rim. Those issues have forced park managers to restrict water use, which could put a damper on the big day.

Couples seeking to etch their union in stone—proverbially, anyway—might consider Badlands National Park, famous for its abundant fossil beds and dramatic sedimentary rock formations that jut skyward. But getting to the church on time could prove challenging due to the $26 million needed to address deteriorating roads and other deferred maintenance at the site.

From people making the biggest commitment of their lives to those seeking to immerse themselves in the recreational, educational, and historical wonders of NPS sites, Americans have expressed their support for fixing the national parks. The Pew Charitable Trusts encourages Congress to pass legislation to give the park service the resources it needs to honor the public’s devotion for generations to come.   

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

National Parks Deteriorating—It's Time to Show Some Love
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Yellowstone landscape
Yellowstone landscape
Fact Sheet

National Park Case Studies

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Fact Sheet

The National Park Service needs almost $12 billion to eliminate its backlog of deferred maintenance. The Pew Charitable Trusts' campaign to restore America's parks has created a series of case studies highlighting examples of repairs needed at our nation's treasures.

Assateague Island maintenance
Assateague Island maintenance
Data Visualization

National Park Deferred Maintenance Needs

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Data Visualization

With record crowds contributing to wear and tear and federal funding unreliable, the National Park Service is struggling to keep pace with repairs, estimated at $11.6 billion in fiscal year 2017. Use this tool, based on NPS data, to learn more about deferred maintenance at NPS sites across the county, in your state, and at your favorite park.