Hot Springs National Park

Arkansas

Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park
iStockphoto

Overview

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.

For centuries, American Indian tribes recognized the healing powers of hot springs that flowed from the western slope of a mountain in Arkansas’ Ouachita range. By 1832, when President Andrew Jackson designated Hot Springs Reservation as the nation’s first federally protected recreation area, a town had sprung up around the springs. Samuel W. Fordyce, a business and railroad magnate, moved to “the American spa,” as the town became known, in 1876 after experiencing the thermal waters, said to treat rheumatism and other ailments. He and others constructed large hotels, utility systems, street railway systems, and grand bathhouses, most of which are still open to the public.

Hot Springs did not become a national park until 1921. Visitors can explore the National Historic Landmark District, hike trails and drive scenic roads, and take a dip in an early 20th-century bathhouse. However, this one-of-a-kind park is now threatened by almost $20 million in deferred maintenance.

Hot Springs National Park maintenance

Restoration of the walls of the Maurice Bathhouse is among the park’s almost $20 million in needed repairs.

iStockphoto

Maintenance challenges

Most of the park’s maintenance backlog is to preserve buildings, many of which are historic. Together, two of the iconic bathhouses on Central Avenue—the Fordyce and the Buckstaff—require over $1 million for repairs.

Although the National Park Service (NPS) recently replaced the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system in the Fordyce, it needs to upgrade the fire alarm system, install automatic door openers to increase accessibility, and replace the ceramic tile roof. And it aims to install LED bulbs and tuck-point the exterior brick of the Buckstaff Bathhouse. The Friends of Hot Springs National Park is also trying to raise $500,000 to restore the Roycroft den, lobby, and front porch of the Maurice Bathhouse so the NPS can lease the building to a local investor.

Visitors driving into the mountains encounter roads in disrepair. Fixing them will cost nearly $6 million. Together, West Mountain Drive and Hot Springs Mountain Drive need over $1 million to inspect and clean culverts, repair rock walls and asphalt overlays, and replace traffic signs and posts. Trails, camping grounds, and picnic sites also require regular upkeep.

The park protects the western slope of Hot Springs Mountain, where rain and snow soak into the ground, feeding its 47 springs. About 700,000 gallons of hot water flow from the springs into a piping and reservoir system and—before it enters the spa buildings—a water treatment plant. The system and plant together have nearly $1 million in deferred maintenance.

If it were not for the national park, there would not be a city of Hot Springs. The national park is the reason they call us ‘the Spa City.’ For hundreds of years, people have journeyed here for the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical healing of the thermal waters. They are still coming by the thousands, and the No. 1 attraction is not Oaklawn or the Mountain Tower; it is the Hot Springs National Park! We are forever grateful for this historical contribution to our community.”Mayor Ruth Carney

Recommendations

To address the infrastructure needs at Hot Springs National Park and other NPS sites in Arkansas 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.

Hot Springs National Park Facts

2016

Visitor spending $99 million
Jobs created by visitor spending 1,584
Economic output $126.6 million
Labor income $41.2 million
Visits 1,544,301
Deferred maintenance (fiscal year 2015) $19.6 million

Sources: National Park Service, “Annual Visitation Report by Years: 2006 to 2016,” accessed June 14, 2017, https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/SSRSReports/National%20Reports/Annual%20Visitation%20By%20Park%20(1979%20-%20Last%20Calendar%20Year); National Park Service, “Visitor Spending Effects,” accessed June 14, 2017, https://www.nps.gov/subjects/socialscience/vse.htm; National Park Service, “NPS Deferred Maintenance Reports,” accessed June 23, 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.

Data Visualization

National Park Deferred Maintenance Needs

Updated with fiscal year 2019 data

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.

Spotlight on Mental Health

Article

What Do You Know About National Parks?

Quick View
Article

The country is celebrating National Park Week from April 21 to 29. How much do you know about some of the most unique and treasured places in America?

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.

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.

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies

Explore

Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.