Assateague Island National Seashore

Maryland and Virginia

Pony

© iStockphoto

Overview

Visitors to Assateague Island National Seashore see firsthand the balance between preservation and recreation. The island’s sandy beaches, salt marshes, and coastal bays provide important habitat for its popular wild horses, white-tailed deer, and waterfowl, as well as blue crabs, Atlantic menhaden, and summer flounder. Conservation of these species is carefully balanced with access to horseback riding, hunting, hiking, fishing, and camping.

Unfortunately, Assateague has a backlog of millions of dollars in infrastructure repairs that is detracting from visitors’ experiences and harming the local ecosystem.

Assateague Island maintenance

Coastal storms wash over roads and parking lots at Old Ferry Landing and elsewhere in the park, damaging buildings and roadways.

© Assateague Coastal Trust

Maintenance challenges

Assateague Island is a barrier island whose landscape is continually reshaped by ocean currents and storms. Severe storms, such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and winter storm Jonas in 2016, have washed out roads, inundated parking lots, and destroyed boardwalks. In addition to the weather pressures, the more than 2.2 million visitors each year have caused roads to deteriorate and parking facilities to overflow. As of October 2015, road repairs—including resurfacing Bayside Drive—represented the biggest slice of deferred maintenance, at over $9 million. Another $5.5 million is needed to fix parking lots on the oceanfront and around visitor centers.

Once visitors leave their cars, other needed repairs become apparent. Visitor centers and visitor contact stations, campgrounds, entrance booths, and bike trails all require maintenance. The Barrier Island Visitor Center needs over a quarter of a million dollars in repairs, and the seashore administration building needs $744,000 worth of fixes. Entrance booths, campground offices, and restroom/shower houses at North and South Ocean Beach require close to $100,000 in restoration. Additional work is needed at a wastewater treatment center, a generator building, a maintenance shop, district ranger stations, and boat sheds, totaling almost half a million dollars. Deferred maintenance costs for buildings and structures throughout the park are $3.3 million.

But Assateague Island’s largest maintenance needs involve its roads, parking lots, and trails. This barrier island has ocean on two sides, making it extremely vulnerable to coastal storms that frequently flood parts of it, causing erosion and sand deposition. Road repairs, especially to Oceanside and Bayside drives, amount to $9.1 million. Upkeep for parking lots, including those at North and South Ocean Beach, Bayside Picnic and Parking Area, and Old Ferry Landing, will cost $5.5 million. And repairing biking and walking trails requires almost $1 million.

The increasing number of people who visit Assateague every year is testimony to its economic significance. In fact, I can’t think of a local Ocean City tourism-related business that doesn’t use Assateague in its advertising. But badly needed maintenance repairs, left unfunded, could hurt visitation to the seashore and affect local businesses.Dave Wilson, principal, Conservation Community Consulting

Recommendations

To address the deferred maintenance needs at Assateague and other National Park Service (NPS) sites in Maryland, 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.

Assateague Island National Seashore Facts

2016

Visitor spending $98.3 million
Jobs created by visitor spending 1,332
Economic output $112.2 million
Labor income $38.8 million
Visits 2,267,822
Deferred maintenance (fiscal year 2015) $24.5 million

National Park Service, “Visitor Spending Effects,” accessed Oct. 6, 2017, https://www.nps.gov/subjects/socialscience/vse.htm; National Park Service, “NPS Deferred Maintenance Reports,” accessed Oct. 6, 2017, https://www.nps.gov/subjects/plandesignconstruct/defermain.htm.
© 2018 The Pew Charitable Trusts

The Pew Charitable Trusts works alongside the National Parks Conservation Association, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and other national and local groups to ensure that our national park resources are maintained and protected for future generations to enjoy.

Assateague Island maintenance
Assateague Island maintenance
Data Visualization

National Park Deferred Maintenance Needs

Broken down by state and park.

Quick View
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.

Fix Our Parks
Fix Our Parks
Video

National Parks Deteriorating—It's Time to Show Some Love

Quick View
Video

For hundreds of years, Valentine's Day has been a time to show people you care about how much you love them.

Yellowstone landscape
Yellowstone landscape
Fact Sheet

National Park Case Studies

Quick View
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.