Shenandoah National Park

Virginia

Shenandoah National Park
© The Pew Charitable Trusts

Pew created this case study using National Park Service deferred maintenance data issued in fiscal year 2015. The information listed here may no longer reflect the NPS site’s current condition or maintenance requirements. To find the most up-to-date information, please use the National Park Repair Needs tool.

Overview

Over a million people enter Shenandoah National Park’s gates each year, most taking the Skyline Drive to vantage points along 105 miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 200,000-acre park tracks the spine of the mountains in the northwestern corner of Virginia. From pullouts or granite peaks accessed by more than a dozen hiking trails, visitors have spectacular views of the state’s Piedmont region and Shenandoah Valley—particularly during peak fall foliage.

Shenandoah is an early example of environmental planning and design in the National Park System. In the early 1900s, people living as far away as Washington built summer retreats here. When the park was established in 1935, more than 10,000 boys and young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps tore down most of these structures and nearly all homes built by early European settlers to create a more natural setting. They also carved trails—which now span over 500 miles—and built other park infrastructure. The park encompasses parts of eight counties and its restoration has allowed Congress to designate roughly 40 percent of it as wilderness areas.

That wilderness draws scientists conducting ecological research ranging from bear behavior to the effects of acid rain, in addition to hikers. Unfortunately, Shenandoah faces a maintenance backlog of over $90 million, more than half of which is for road repairs.

Shenandoah National Park
© The Pew Charitable Trusts

Maintenance challenges

Most of the infrastructure repairs—about $55 million—are associated with roads and parking lots. Skyline Drive needs more than $38 million in repairs, including resurfacing pavement, restoring historic stone walls and culverts, and installing drainage systems.

Shenandoah also needs $6.2 million to maintain more than 360 structures, ranging from comfort stations and shelters to historic cabins and President Herbert Hoover’s retreat. Maintenance is required not only for the heavily used Big Meadows Lodge and Skyland Area’s Pollock Dining Room, but also for such key facilities as the Pinnacles research station and the Skyland water treatment plant building. Most of the park’s water and sewer systems—including pipes, access points, and treatment plants—are 50 to 80 years old and need updating to adequately serve visitors.

To help Shenandoah National Park address its maintenance needs, several nonprofits and volunteer groups, such as the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and the Shenandoah National Park Trust, are pitching in. The groups are helping to remove invasive species, make over 200 miles of trails more accessible, and repair historic structures. While the park is fortunate to have these supportive partnerships, adequate congressional funding is necessary to ensure that visitors can fully and safely experience the park’s history and natural beauty.

Shenandoah National Park is a tremendous asset for Warren County, bringing in about 500,000 visitors a year through the northern entrance. ... Funding for continued improvements and much-needed maintenance at Shenandoah National Park is necessary to stay competitive.Douglas P. Stanley, Warren County administrator and chairman of Celebrate Shenandoah

Recommendations

To address the deferred maintenance needs at Shenandoah and other National Park Service sites in Virginia and across the country, Congress 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.
  • Provide more highway funding for NPS maintenance needs.
  • Create more opportunities for public-private collaboration and donations to help restore park infrastructure.
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National Park Deferred Maintenance Needs

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Data Visualization

National Park Deferred Maintenance Needs

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.

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