Investing in Overdue Maintenance at National Parks Could Generate 100,000 Jobs

Every region of U.S. would see benefits of addressing the almost $12 billion backlog

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Investing in Overdue Maintenance at National Parks Could Generate 100,000 Jobs

Addressing the National Park Service’s (NPS’) nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog would create or support more than 100,000 infrastructure-related jobs, a Pew-commissioned analysis by the Cadmus Group found. This number, based on fiscal year 2018 NPS data, is a reminder of the powerful contribution that national parks make to the U.S. economy. 

The jobs and benefits that would result from fully funding NPS’ deferred maintenance include construction workers repairing roads, preservation experts restoring deteriorating historic sites, and engineers overhauling outdated sewer, water, fire prevention, and electrical systems that can threaten visitor safety and drain park resources.

The analysis, “Restoring Parks, Creating Jobs: How Infrastructure Restoration in the National Park System Can Create or Support Jobs,” contains a state-by-state breakdown that projects the number of jobs that could be created or supported if NPS’ repair backlog is addressed. The analysis found that states with higher unemployment rates could gain the most and that the potential job benefit would be about equally split between metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.

The interactive below shows how many jobs could be generated in states and territories, as well as the current number of jobs that parks support, the number of visits, and visitor spending (based on 2018 NPS data). Although the maintenance backlog rose from $11.6 billion in fiscal 2017 to almost $12 billion in fiscal 2018, the number of jobs projected from full funding of the maintenance backlog declined from 109,498 to 108,364. This was due to an uptick in inflation and a potential increase in the cost per job.

You can also view Pew-commissioned analyses and interactives based on data from fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017.

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Values for the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands are not shown on this map.

Territory Potential jobs Current jobs supported by visitor spending Visits Visitor spending (millions) Economic output (millions)
American Samoa 12 19 28,625 $1.7 $2.2
Guam 45 257 387,855 $22.9 $29.4
Puerto Rico 365 603 910,405 $53.8 $69.0
Virgin Islands 421 283 256,076 $24.9 $33.5

Notes: Delaware and the Northern Mariana Islands do not have any National Park System units that collect visitor spending data. Dollar figures are in millions.

Sources: Cadmus Group analysis of National Park Service data from fiscal 2018; National Park Service, “2018 National Park Visitor Spending Effects” (2018), https://www.nps.gov/nature/customcf/NPS_Data_Visualization/docs/NPS_2018_Visitor_Spending_Effects.pdf.

For more information, please see the methodology or view the Cadmus Group’s report, “Restoring Parks, Creating Jobs: How Infrastructure Restoration in the National Park System Can Create or Support Jobs” (2019). 

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